Saturday, November 21, 2015

Teacher Pay Woes!

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) --  Getting fairly and fully paid what you are due isn't apparently always simple. Firstly you have to remind your boss how many hours you have worked by completing timetable sheets, then you have to discover 'When you are going to be be paid ?' and at times, even, 'Where you are going to be paid?' And in Russia, you might wonder if you will be paid at the end of month at all. A further question is, 'How you will be paid;  in hard cash of rubles or dollars or through the banks?'

            I recall when I was working for one of the 'respectable' and 'acceptable'  foreign  language companies that few teachers in the staff room knew when the exact pay day was. It was almost a state secret. I kept asking other teachers and received a vague 'sometime at the end of the month.' Formal notices announcing when you would be paid rarely went up in the staff rooms. When one American boss actually put up a notice it declared quite offensively that, 'If you don't turn up on the date for payment you won't be paid', insinuating that it was the lateness of the teachers who were to blame for not being paid rather than the indifference of the administration. Not only was this notice illegal (no employer has the legal right to withhold due salaries for work) but very suspicious. It raised the question as to what would this boss do with the money he did not pay to teachers? Would it go back into the company or would it simply vanish?

           Well once I turned up to collect my pay and found that this boss not only forgot my name but was about to pay me the part-time wage of  'Derek'. I had to remind him that my name was Stephen Wilson and that I was full-time. I almost lost half my monthly salary!  Shortly afterwards I heard he had been 'tranferred to a new position'. However, I later learned from someone in 'the know how'  that this boss had been fiddling the accounts and that the scandal had been hushed up and swept under the carpet. I now began to question 'the lapse in memory of my former boss'  and every time I entered the office to obtain my pay I counted it so meticulously the newly appointed boss was a bit disconcerted.

           It would be tedious to recall all the situations in which I was never paid my due by this company and others. I will just state that I parted company with them when I never received pay for three substitute teaching lessons.

           What is astonishing is how violations of pay are not even concealed but shamelessly made public! It stretches the limits of incredulity when your employer publically declares that you have received a monthly payment of 71,000 rubles when you actually obtained far less! Those shameless claims have been published in Moscow by many local papers such as Metro, the Moscow evening News and Argument and Facts'. One article states, 'The average pay of teachers at secondary schools has risen from 39,200 rubles in 2010, to 71,000 rubles in 2015. We note that in the capital more than 123,000 teachers are employed and that the number of 'school officials' over the past 5 years  has been cut from almost 22,000 in 2010, to 11,000 in 2015. '

           The statement would make any normally rational person blush. For instance, would any normal person  boast about making approximately 11,000 employees, officials or not, redundant? What pleasure can any normal person derive from depriving a person of his livelihood? Notice how the word officials are in italics, leading us to question whether they are actually officials all. They are very possibly psychologists, speech therapists and nurses not officials.

           When teachers heard those published claims the reaction was one of outrage and indignation. 'Do we receive that much?', 'This is news to me?' and 'Where did they obtain those figures?

           'We can only dream about such a fantastic salary!'

            Further investigation indicates that there is a vast discrepancy between recorded figures in payment sheets and sums in the Financial Report. It is worth offering some concrete examples to illustrate this point below.

             (The figures are from a survey by Novaya Gazeta, Number 121, 2.11,2015, , Pay-Capacity, by Ludmila Ribina)

            A teacher of Russian at a state school in Volgograd earns 21,125 rubles and 51 kopeks for working 27 hours. Yet
Rosstat claims the average teacher salary amounts to 27,968

            In Ivanova, a teacher who works 20 hours attains 13,606 rubles and 79 kopeks. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher in the Ivanovski region is 24,184 rubles.

            In the Tambovskaya region  a teacher who works 21 hours earns 13,102 rubles. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher is 25,649 rubles.

            A teacher in the Astrakhanskaya region works 38 hours and obtains a miserable 16,854 rubles. Rosstat claims the average salary of a teacher in the Astrakhanskaya  region amounts to 29,712 rubles.

            We could provide more examples but it would grow tedious.

            We could also point out that teachers are not even being paid for taking some classes out on day excursions, filling in all kind of paperwork and many 'non-teaching duties ' such as being asked to write newspapers or do research unconnected with their work. In fact, one recent estimate discovered that teachers are being asked to complete 300 reports a year.

            Teachers are being constantly asked to fill in this or that evaluation form.

            A chairman for the union 'Teacher', Vsevolod Lukhovitsky argues that using the 'average salary' as the main indicator of changes in salaries is bad because it can be so easily manipulated. In deed, as the figures indicate, the state has been grossly distorting the actual figures. The main point is that actual pay should be linked to one fully discerned workload. Or in  simplier terms; a teacher must be paid the exact amount for the exact number of hours he performs. He also argues that educational officials should not be paid more than twice the income of a teacher. At the moment, an official earns three times the average salary of a teacher in Moscow.

            School teachers not only evidently but urgently require the aid of trade-unions. Unfortunately, the membership of the Russian Union 'Teacher' is only approximately 6000. Compare this with Chicago which has 30,000 teachers enrolled in a union!

            Despite this fact, union membership is still steadily growing and discontent won't simply be dissipated by time.

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