Upon first glance, this school in Spain comes across as a very professional institution to clients. However, that is all. It was only about the image and nothing but the image. Claude Izquierdo, the director, is a great c*cksucker to the clients and an even greater cheater to the teachers.
I came across this job as my boyfriend got a job first as a French and English teacher in October 2015 and he asked if there was a position also for me in which they said yes but only a part-time. But because it was only a part-time, I was not interested and so we declined. However, as my boyfriend had a lot of financial responsibilities at the time and he needed a new job, I eventually said ok to going to Spain and so we contacted Claude again in December. They said there was a part-time job for me in January but for my boyfriend there would be a full-time job available for him in March. So I went in January. Whilst I was there, I was getting to know the other teachers and told them that my boyfriend would be starting in March. The teachers were surprised as there was no requirement for a new French teacher and the current French teachers were already asking for more hours. Eventually Claude heard about this and told me to be quiet about my boyfriend coming in March which I thought was very strange as this had been agreed upon before I arrived, albeit verbally. I told my boyfriend about it and he contacted Claude to discuss prospects for March. Claude said that they could only offer him 19 hours in March which was not what was agreed in January. A full-time for him and part-time for me was the agreement. Instead Claude decided to manipulate the situation and say that my boyfriend’s hours and my hours combined would be the equivalent of one part-time and one full-time. We kept telling him that we are separate people and that we have separate financial responsibilities. We’re not married and even if we were, when it comes to work contracts we should still be regarded as separate employees.
When I handed in my resignation in May, I said the reason I was leaving was because of his lack of honesty and his false promises. His response was that there had been a misunderstanding (which was his usual defence) and that my boyfriend was always going to be a full-time and that Claude was going to take my hours and give them to my boyfriend. I did not know what to say to that. This was shocking to me in so many ways. Firstly, he was lying straight to my face as he told both my boyfriend and I that all he could offer was 19 hours. Secondly, he was going to take my hours away and the way he said it made it seem like it was perfectly ok. I told him I was not going to stay until the end of the school term and that since I was still on my probationary period (four months), I was not obliged to give notice (though I was nice enough to give a month and a half’s notice). Unsurprisingly (but also sickeningly), his manipulative mind naturally kicked in and counted four months – January, February, March, April – saying that my probationary period was not up. When in fact I started at the END of January and therefore my probationary was until the end of May. And regardless, the conditions of the hours of my contract were not met and therefore my contract was considered invalid anyway which meant I didn’t have to give any notice at all.
Signing the contract was also an issue. When I arrived, I needed to obtain a NIE (residence permit number) and Claude said I needed to sign a “fake” full-time contract as I needed to earn a minimum salary to obtain a NIE and my wage for January would not have met the minimum wage (as I started at the end of January) and that after I get my NIE, I could then sign my real part-time contract. In hindsight, I now realise that it would not have made any difference whether I had signed a full-time or part-time contract as either way, I still would’ve only worked three days in January. My biggest mistake was signing anything at all. After I had obtained my NIE, I asked several times to sign my “real” part-time contract but every time I asked, Claude always said that “they” were sending it. Of course, it never arrived. As a result, I was working on a full-time contract as a part-time employee, which I believe is illegal. The contract was supposed to protect both employer and employee, yet Claude manages to take a perfectly legal contract, manipulate it to cheat his employees by saying that the contract is based on 32 hours and the number of hours I actually work is only relative to that when in fact the purpose of the contract is to guarantee me 32 hours and if they can’t find 32 hours for me, then I am still paid that amount as it is not the employees fault that the school cannot find the hours they agree to. Perhaps this was also the plan for my boyfriend; to guarantee him a full-time contract, but offer him 19 hours.
Pay was extremely unclear and even up until now, I still have no idea how much I was getting paid. My contract said a base salary of €1460 gross for 32 hours per week which is considered full-time. However, this number of hours was never met. I got between 20-30 hours per week (my timetable was highly irregular) which Claude would always say to me that is was “more or less full-time” or “close to full-time”. Then when it came to pay, it was extremely complicated. Firstly, I was never paid the minimum stated on my contract – which already meant that the conditions of my contract were not met. Secondly, the calculations were terribly complicated. Basically he would calculate how many hours I worked in a week (which was different every week) so I thought he would take the average but then he said it wasn’t the average so I thought it would be per hour but he said it also wasn’t per hour yet he only did the calculation for one week only. I had asked him to explain the calculations to me many times including in the interview yet it only made things more confusing. I said it was very complicated and he justified it by saying that these days everything is complicated. Even in the interview, discussing the salary was very unclear. I remember asking Claude how much I would be paid as a part-time and he explained €1460 but he never mentioned that that was for 32 hours. That was the first sign of many more irregularities to come. In hindsight, it seems that his lack of clarity was possibly deliberate.
There was a point when I thought to myself: Am I really that stupid to not understand this? I have worked in other places before and nothing was ever this unclear. I was relieved to hear that I was not the only employee to feel this way.
On top of this, preparation time, report writing, meeting times and marking homework were all not paid for. Plus an extremely irregular timetable in which my time seemed to be at their disposal whenever a student wanted to reschedule, which was a regular occurrence. Working times would begin as early as 7 o’clock in the morning until as late as 9 o’clock in the evening in the same day. And for the amount of money that appears in your bank account at the end of the month is really not worth it. Exploitation in fact.
As for professionalism, Claude often spoke of matters about the teachers out of the blue. Especially when it was nobody’s business. For example, in a talk with my boyfriend (after I had arrived), he complained that I had asked to sign my “real” contract and then he said was going to fire a teacher so that there would be space for him. These things I found to be very out of place. And then to me, out of nowhere he told me which teachers he thought was leaving (probably because he wanted to reassure me that there would eventually be space for my boyfriend after making a false promise), and he also explained to me why another teacher was leaving, which to be honest is none of my business and not for him to tell other teachers. Although this teacher did tell me why she was leaving, it was nothing like Claude’s account. I believe he said these things just to cover up his tricks. On top of that, he told my students why I was leaving which was that I wanted to move closer to my boyfriend, which is a manipulated version of the truth. So he was just covering up incase I said anything. In the end, his job was to tell students that I was leaving. The rest is none of his business. Having to lie, cover up his lies and keep track of his lies must be an exhausting job for him.
On my last day, I had an argument with him while we were sorting out my final pay. Again, I tried to ask him to explain the pay. He has this Excel spreadsheet where he does all his calculations and since his explanations were still not clear, I asked if he could send me a copy of the excel spreadsheet. Immediately, his face changed and he became very defensive and very aggressive shouting at me saying: “No, this is mine. The calculations don’t matter. You have the result on paper.”. I told him that the information on his Excel spreadsheet was mine, I have the right to know how my pay is calculated and that if he was worried about his spreadsheet being copied, he could always put a protection on it. He continued to be incredibly defensive and aggressive calling me “crazy” and such which only made me wonder: What has he got to hide if asking him to send me a copy of the Excel spreadsheet could trigger such a reaction?
All employees start on a gross salary of €1460 per month, regardless of your qualifications and experiences.
Nothing from Claude was ever in writing which gave him the freedom for manipulation. For example, when a student cancels a class, the policy of whether the cancellation is late or not is very subjective. There is nothing in writing to indicate the timeframe of what is considered late notice or not late notice. There is also nothing in writing about the terms and condition of employment either.
There was an incident in which I had a student who kept cancelling and eventually said he couldn’t come anymore. I had a lot of recuperations to make up with him so I kept asking Claude what was going to happen to these recuperations. Every time I asked, I could never get a clear answer to eventually I sent an email stating that I wanted clarity and transparency regarding these recuperations. Of course, he did not respond in writing and told me verbally that they would ask this student to see if he was able to recuperate. If yes, then I would recuperate; if no, then I would still get paid. The student got back and said he would be too busy to recuperate so the pedagogical director sent me an email to inform me that I would have to gives classes to other students to make up for not being able to recuperate this student. Immediately I confronted Claude and said that that was not our agreement. The his initial reaction was: “What agreement? Of course I’m not going to pay you if you don’t work” and then he continues to talk himself out of this agreement. Strangely, three minutes later, he completely changes the story and says that there has been a misunderstanding and that these classes to other students are to make up for the fact that I have lost a student. Claude’s incoherency was nothing new. Perhaps if he was clear and transparent with his employees, there would not have been all these “misunderstandings”.
My biggest mistake in all of this was signing things without having my queries fully clarified and not insisting on having agreements made in writing. At the beginning I didn’t want to let Claude down as we had already turned down the offer once. However, even under pressure I still should not have let these things pass. That is the biggest learning curve.
Claude Escola D'Idiomes is a school located in Catalunya, Spain.