How can I get school to take their hours off my ARC?

Hi. I posted a question a few months a go about leaving my school, and got a number of heplful responses. Since my visitor visa was about to expire, and I didn’t want to leave the country, I opted to stay with the school for a while longer–also to give them a final chance to improve my working situation.
No improvement has been made, despite many hollow promises, and I want to switch schools ASAP. There is another school that wants to sign me up, and I am eager to work for them.
The usual recommendation that I’ve seen for switching schools is to add the new school to your ARC, and then drop the old one–so you can remain in the country by means of the hours from your new school. However, I followed a poster’s advice and contacted the CLA (Council of Labor Affairs) and discovered that my current school has me signed up for 25 hours per week. So there is no room to add hours from the new school until the current school’s hours are dropped.
I tried to quit several months ago, offering them a month’s notice and payment of the contract breaking fee, but they wouldn’t hear of it. And this was before they had even finished the paperwork for my work permit. Some people encouraged me to run at this point, but I had a paycheck pending, and my visitor visa was about to expire. Plus, they made many promises for an improved situation, and I didn’t want to leave them in a bind.
Now I’m feeling foolish for staying. They followed through on nothing. If they weren’t amenable to my leaving when I didn’t even have work permit, I am certain they won’t be now.
My question: How do I get those hours off? I can send them written notice that I’m leaving, but they can still hold me hostage by not dropping the hours. A woman from the CLA said to work with the school through a number she gave me for my local city government. But a Taiwanese friend warned me that the local government (this is a small city) would probably act in the interest of the school, not my own. I tried to contact a lawyer, but every office I’ve tried has a receptionist who can’t speak any English.
At this point, I’m okay with flying to China or the Phillipines for a while if I have to. I just want out, and to move on to the new school. I thought of this idea: Send them a registered letter providing 10 days notice that I’m leaving. But offer, in this letter, to stay for a month if they’ll drop my hours immediately, and let the new school add theirs. But I don’t know if they’re even allowed to drop their hours while I’m still working at their school. I’d much rather give them a whole month to find a replacement, but then I also risk not getting paid for my final month’s work.
Thanks for any advice! I’m feeling very trapped. I wish I could break with this school in a way that’s amicable, but it seems impossible. Any feedback would be great.

I am not an expert, and have no experience with schools or teaching, so please take this with a bucket-load of salt.

First thing than springs to my mind is:

  1. Is your contract with the school for 25 hours/week?
  2. Do you really get those 25 hours/week?

-If not, I would imagine that it should be possible to discuss the matter with CLA - the claimed hours does not match reality, and has to be adjusted with or without the schools approval.

Yes, my contract is for 25 teaching hours per week plus a lot of office hours, and that’s how much I work. But if I quit, I should be able to have those hours removed, to make room for a new school. But I can’t figure out how to make them do this, except for cancelling my own ARC, and leaving the country–which I’ll do if I have to.

Do you have to leave the country?

After giving notice and leaving your job you have a short period to get your affairs in order, right? As I understand it, and I may be wrong, you can have a new job lined up and take all your paperwork in to get a new work permit without leaving the country.

I think the problem may be to get out of your contract safely. You need them to release you, not just let you go. ie you can’t get another work permit if you’re listed as a contract breaker. Someone else can probably advise you on this better than me, but I would start by asking the CLA and FAP.

In a small town, if you plan to go and work for a rival, this would be more difficult than if you just want to disappear off their radar. I bet you your school will ask who you’re going to work for before they release you.

Also, are you sure the new place will be any better? It’s amazing how the greener grass withers under your feet as soon as you get there.

Thanks, Loretta.

Boy, I sure hope you're wrong about not being able to switch jobs until they release me. That means I'm completely at their mercy. What a nightmare. I had always been under the impression that you could switch employers if you gave them notice and paid the contract breaking free. This means I may have to leave Taiwan for good, unless I'm willing to complete this horrible contract. I have no faith that they will ever release me.

Yes, the grass would definitely be greener at the other school. For one thing, they won’t be paying me peanuts for my hours, and also they are located in a major metropolitan area. I wasn’t properly informed about either of those things when I naively signed this contract, at the advice of the person who recruited me from abroad.

Thanks again for your input.

My employer, an agent, cut my hours in violation of my contract. They said that verbally telling me they were cutting my hours meant that I accepted the change in the contract. I didn’t want to continue employment with them, and they threatened to deduct a deposit/not pay me my last month’s pay. I went to the CLA for help. In my case, I bought a legal letter, available in any local bookstore. I sent a legal letter to my employer (now former employer) that made clear to them that I was exercising my right to quit my job under the Labor Standards Act, I had worked there for less than 3 months so did not need to give any days notice, and that I wanted full compensation of my hours. I listed the bank account that my pay was to go into, so I didn’t even need to go in to collect my last paycheck. They paid me everything I was due, which is all I wanted.

From that ordeal of dealing with my employer and the CLA I learned some things that may be applicable to your situation.

You’ll only need to do a visa run to Hong Kong if you don’t get a new employer on your ARC within 14 days of leaving your current job. Your current school must pay you for all hours that you worked for them. They can not keep some of your wages or collect any deposit in response to you quitting, and they can be fined if you can prove that they did so (Article 78 of the Labor Standards Act).

I’m assuming that “several months” have gone by on your current contract means more than 3 months. If it was less than 3 months, your employment can conceivable be broken at will. The CLA will tell you that your employer might argue that the contract has a longer period of notice, and they then have the right to sue you. If they won, they would be able to collect damages that you incurred on their business. If you make sure they know you can cover yourself legally, I believe that it’s unlikely that your employer will try to sue you, but it’s a possibility that you can’t rule out.

As for giving notice to your employer: Article 15 of the Labor Standards Act Where a worker has continuously worked for more than three months but less than one year, the notice shall be given ten days in advance. In those ten days, you can supposedly legally also take up to two days per week paid by your current school to look for a new job.

Contact the CLA, make clear to them that you are breaking your current contract, that your current employer threatened to deduct your wages or take a deposit (illegal), so you want to do what you can to make the separation from your current employer as smooth as possible. The CLA’s standard line is to tell you that the best recourse is to work with your current employer to resolve the situation. Of course, you want to do that too, but you also want to protect yourself legally, which the CLA can give you advice on.

Maybe you won’t need to go to such lengths. If you make clear to your employer (in writing, with a copy for your legal protection that you are leaving in a certain number of days to accept an employment offer that is better than the one they are giving you. Since you have your written notice of cessation of contract, that can be evidence that you are no longer employed with the old place of employment, and then your new employer can offer it as proof that you have left your old employer. You will need a copy of the written notice that you presented as evidence.

If you want to have a laugh, let the CLA representative read your contract. He might be shocked about the illegality of some of the provisions, and point out to you which ones are illegal. To get around this, the illegal contract I had said something like: “If any provisions of this contract are illegal, they are not valid, but that does not mean that any other parts of this contract are diminished.” Even though the contract had a lot of illegal things in it, there wasn’t one thing that the CLA or anyone else could do about them

Don’t work for agents for this very reason. Unfortunately, agents are still very powerful in Taiwan, and even though people sign contracts with illegal provisions, there’s nothing the government can do about it. It’s shocking to me, but that’s life in Taiwan. The company doesn’t need to give a copy of your contract to get a work visa for you.

Finally, the new National Immigration Agency’s 24-hour toll-free hotline 0800-024-111 for foreigners living in Taiwan seems like a valuable new service that foreigners can use to get information about visas, residency permits, work, health insurance, transportation, regaining Taiwanese nationality, lost and found, education, taxation, housing, legal assistance and others. I’ve not called it myself, but if you want the same info that the CLA can give you from a fresh perspective, I think NIA might be helpful.

Thanks, Twocs. That’s a great relief. There is no notice period specified in my contract, just a penalty for breaking the contract. I’ll bring the contract with me when I go to the local branch of the CLA in my town tomorrow. Thanks so much for all of this information. It makes my day a lot brighter. Best.