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Friendly advice re:Bell - Warsaw Szczecin, Gdansk, Bydgoszcz
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Polska715



Joined: 10 May 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2012 3:49 pm    Post subject: Friendly advice re:Bell - Warsaw Szczecin, Gdansk, Bydgoszcz Reply with quote

Just finishing up some time spent with ELS-Bell, in Poland, the group of schools owned by the same franchise in these 4 cities. I see their recruitment ads are up now, and without wanting to attack them, but rather with an eye to saving hardworking ESL teachers from future headaches (and heartaches), I want to say that their reputation has been quite good in the past, but tread carefully. There is a reason they are being forced to hire so assertively right now. They have lost a lot of teachers this year due to non-payment and (very) late payment of salaries. They've admitted to having what they call "cash-flow" problems, and speaking with friends from other schools in the network, it is not just my school. Ludka has admitted that they plan to use next year's tuition pre-payments to finish paying off contracts this year, which I believe was meant to be reassuring for current teachers, but hearing that, I can only imagine it's to be expected that they will have trouble paying salaries next year, too.

Some of the school and academic directors of individual schools are handling the obviously difficult situation as professionally as possible, like the directors in Warsaw, while others are not (I hear Zenon in Szczecin is particularly nasty and that none of the full-time native speakers are returning - and apparently not a new problem. See this thread http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewtopic.php?t=74816&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=szczecin&start=30).

I won't tell anyone to work for them or not to work for them, only that if you're interviewed, it might be worth your while to ask how many returning native speaker teachers the particular school has, and whether they've resolved their money problems before signing a contract. It's better to be safe than sorry, and you don't want to find yourself teaching 30+ hours a week (including Saturdays) for a school that is unable to pay you!
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Master Shake



Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 959
Location: Itabashi, Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject: Bell late payments Reply with quote

Hi Polska,

Thanks for the warning. I used to work for Bell myself and enjoyed my time working there.

I can confirm the late payment problems as I have heard about them from several different people in different centres. Shocked
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Polska715



Joined: 10 May 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just hope it's helpful to someone. Would hate to see new teachers introduced to TEFL in that way...you always have to be a bit street smart, but some schools do respect teachers, pay on time, etc...
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scottie1113



Joined: 25 Oct 2004
Posts: 351
Location: Gdansk

PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've worked at Bell Gdansk for five years and signed a contract yesterday for my sixth. The late payments are true but they haven't been a hardship for anyone here. We still get paid, albeit a little later in the month. It's not a big deal to me.

We're losing one teacher for next year and it's not related to the late payments. She's Polish, has been at this school for 10+ years, and received a tremendous offer to work in China for two years. I can't speak to the situation in other schools.

If you'd like to know what Bell is doing to correct this situation-and they will-send me a pm, especially if you're a new teacher and want to know more about Bell in Poland.
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Polska715



Joined: 10 May 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair enough. If you feel your directors are responsive and are addressing your concerns, and if you're in a financial position for it not to be a problem to be consistently paid up to 2 or 3 weeks late, then ELS-Bell might be fine for you. They will give you plenty of work, and you will gain a lot of experience working there. I just think that Bell is resting on a good past reputation regarding things like payment and contracts, and that they may not be so "above the fray" anymore.
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mdm15



Joined: 20 Jun 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just finishing up some time at Bell School and this school WAS a good school,hence the loyal support it often gets on these forums. Teachers however, have been suffering progressive pay cuts and increasing workloads as the school is just not attracting new students and the present students are very unhappy as standards have slipped drastically.

If you want to though,some advice....

They try to make you believe you have a fulltime contract - dont believe it. Its a sales contract called a umowa u dzielo, they use this as they can avoid paying you ZUS (a social security to help you if your sick, need hospital care etc)

Sort out your own NIP (they will try to put you off getting one for the above reasons)
the "agreement" acutally means you only have to work to a set number of hours. they will try to make you work alot - being on call, filling out all sorts of paperwork etc but just dont accept it, state that you know that its not a fulltime contract and spend you other time having fun or finding private students (they also try to make out you cant have them too - again, dont believe it).

Ludka admitted that next year's pre-payments will pay for new teachers' salaries then I would be concerned as a new teacher to Bell.

Tread very carefully with this school and do all the research as I have found they will take advantage.

For more information see this..

http://www.polishforums.com/archives/2009/work-study-43/advice-needed-els-bell-szczecin-dodgy-37890/
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simon_porter00



Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 454
Location: Warsaw, Poland

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Need to clear up some dangerous misinformation here.

The Umowa o Dzieło (UoDz) is not a contract schools give you to "avoid" paying ZUS. The UoDz is a standard contract used all over Poland for all kinds of workers in all kinds of skilled and unskilled work. The employer doesn't pay your ZUS because this agreement allows them not to, not that they "avoid" or "dodge" paying something. The above post makes it sound as if you're entitled to ZUS. You're not if you have a UoDz.

The UoDz is a contract (defined as "contract for work performed") which is used (misused actually, but that's a different story) in - I would guess - 98% of private language schools in Poland. It is not a sales contract, it's a form of employment contract.

Your NIP is the number which identifies you in the tax system. Every worker in Poland HAS to have this. You cannot not have this number unless the school are paying you in cash under the table or in big fat brown envelopes. You can get your own NIP easily enough when you arrive in Poland - there's no secret to this. If the school get you your NIP and they don't show you any evidence of this then they are operating a dodge but this is not your problem but the problem of the school as they will get into trouble.

All you have to do is make sure you get a signed contract establishing your cooperation with the school.
The UoDz should be issued every month, at the end of the month and detail: your address, your details, the school's details, your gross pay, your net pay, the tax which should be paid, your NIP and the hours you worked, your signature and the school's signature as a minimum. If you have this (the NIP might not be shown on the first 3 of these but will on later documents) and the school are operating a dodge they this document ill land them in all kinds of .... dirty stuff.

Your NIP has nothing to do with your ZUS other than you need a NIP to pay ZUS.

As regards Bell - I have no idea, but it sounds pretty desperate.
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mdm15



Joined: 20 Jun 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you work over 40+ hours a week - which all "full time" teacher do for Bell school then of course you are entitled to be paid ZUS. There is no misinformation here. They use this "terms and conditions of teaching" note that it isnt said to be an employment contract as they will heap demands on teachers and then not have to pay ZUS> they rely on the fact that people are just plain ignorant about the Polish emploment system. Pm me, i have been in contact with lawyers about this.

And yes ...they did pay us in cash and no one had ever been given a NIP. it was only when i became self employed my accountant alerted me to the fact I had worked for a school and my tax office was in a completely different city. The school has always operated like this.
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simon_porter00



Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 454
Location: Warsaw, Poland

PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope this doesn't turn into a *beep* size competition....

Yes, if you talk to a lawyer they'll say you should pay ZUS. This is nothing fantastically new, it's just not reality.

I've been teaching in Poland since 2006, worked for a number of schools, had my own school and employed teachers myself and as such like to think that perhaps I know something about this. Not to mention I now exclusively work with lawyers/law firms and have worked with lawyers for the last 3/4 years.

There are very few schools which will pay you ZUS because of the amounts they have to pay ZUS on your behalf e.g. You earn 50zł per hour. 50x24 teaching hours = roughly 4800zł gross. Take off tax and take off your ZUS payment and you're left with a little bit over 3000zł. Work on an umowa o dzieło where you just pay tax you walk out with 4108zł i.e. a lot more.

If you're from the EU and carry a health card, you're entitled to free health care, the only issue is if you're not EU. ZUS payments also include your pension. I would say 96% of teachers will not stay in Poland so this is wasted money as you'll never get it back.

If you think you'll walk away with your earned money (50x24hours) and the school will voluntarily pay your ZUS as a freebie you're off your rocker. Working on an UoDz is a much better deal for a teacher in the short term and an easier deal for the school as it's less paperwork.

The other issue is forcing it through the courts/relevant ombudsman. The government is well aware that schools misuse the UoDz for hiring teachers - everyone knows that teaching is a 'service' and not 'work' therefore the appropriate contract should be the umowa zlencenia ("contract for services performed") which you pay ZUS and different tax (the tax office loses out on 1/2% if I remember correctly). This is why at the end of last year there was all this hoo-haa about only schools having tax exempt status (because teaching is VAT exempt) was discussed as one of the ways to limit this misuse of the UoDz. This is why schools like the BC only employ freelancers because they're afraid this continuing blind eye as regards UoDz will eventually be turned and the problem noticed. And of course, because this is more expensive for the school (the umowa zlencenia) they'd rather pay you on an UoDz as it's cheaper for them and of course better for you.

As regards the misinformation - it's because you portrayed the UoDz as a bad thing where patently it's not and wrote a confused message about NIP.

In short:
advantages to UoDz - more money, flexibility
advantages Umowa Zlencenia - legal protection (through employment law - limited in UoDz), public health care and a pension.

Employment law we can scrub as anything through the courts will take 2/3 years not to mention the cost of doing this, pension which you probably won't be here to enjoy and public health care which you have for free if you're from the EU anyhow.

Schools can pay you in cash. In itself there's nothing wrong with this as long as they give you a document detailing what you did that month and the tax breakdown. On this document, you'll have your NIP number.

Your tax office is dictated by where you are registered. If Bell registered your presence in Poland (which could be in theory anywhere - not necessarily where you are actually living e.g. the school owns one flat in swieta nowhere and has registered 300 teachers there) then the tax office will be related to that address. There's nothing in itself wrong with this as yes you could argue it's improper procedure (that 300 people are registered in one flat) but not, as far as I know, illegal.

One thing you say doesn't make sense though - if you haven't got a NIP, you can't have a tax office ergo if you have a tax office, you have a NIP. If you had no NIP, yuor accountant would have got pretty excited about this, rushed to the local urząd skarbowy and sorted this out for you.
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ecocks



Joined: 06 Nov 2007
Posts: 886
Location: Gdansk, Poland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, basically, if you have permission to live and work in Poland (thereby avoiding visa troubles) but are doing "some" teaching on the side the UoDz or the envelope is better for you (albeit illegal)?
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Polska715



Joined: 10 May 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, mdm is right about Bell and NIPs. All of the native teachers were discouraged from getting a NIP. I was told I needed Bell’s help to get one, so I asked about 5 times, then mentioned the situation to a friend, who told me it was easy enough to get one myself. When I finally did so, I wanted proof that I had paid taxes prior to that point (for residency reasons – I’m not EU), and I was given a “tax statement” which used my passport number instead of a NIP, and listed my tax office in Gdansk even though Bell and my landlady had registered me at a flat in the city in which I worked. So I called around, and none of the many tax offices I called had ever heard of me, including the one in the city I worked in and the one cited on my “tax statement.” It’s as if I never existed in Poland.

Also, 50 zl an hour? Haha. Not at Bell. Even working Saturdays, I never reached 3000 take-home per month.
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simon_porter00



Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 454
Location: Warsaw, Poland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ecocks wrote:
So, basically, if you have permission to live and work in Poland (thereby avoiding visa troubles) but are doing "some" teaching on the side the UoDz or the envelope is better for you (albeit illegal)?


Yes.

Look, I'm not trying to defend Bell, clearly something's not right and enough alarm bells (no pun intended) should be ringing for anyone considering a job there.

All I wanted to do was clear up the fact that a UoDz is a 'standard' for teaching contracts and your NIP number is a tax number for you in the system and you can get it yourself.
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mdm15



Joined: 20 Jun 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

no **** contest dont worry.

Firstly, I only got a NIP once I had set up my own company. During my time at Bell I didnt have one, didnt even know what it was. For my tax, the school director (or someone else - still dont know who is responsible) used the Uk address I had moved from as my permanent address so that I appeared as non-resident. I had told them that my Polish address is my only place of residence - so they used a non-existant address and didnt even ask me.

Dont get me wrong, i dont expect to have ZUS paid for me if im on a "sales contract" or however it is best to describe a umowa o dzieło. My issue is that teachers are exploited - made to believe its a full time job and so made to feel obliged to meet all the conditions on the contract. if its outside of the hours - dont do it! that is in the nature of the umowa o dzieło. The school makes so much money with this so new teachers should be made aware of it.
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Master Shake



Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 959
Location: Itabashi, Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mdm15 wrote:
Dont get me wrong, i dont expect to have ZUS paid for me if im on a "sales contract" or however it is best to describe a umowa o dzieło. My issue is that teachers are exploited - made to believe its a full time job and so made to feel obliged to meet all the conditions on the contract. if its outside of the hours - dont do it! that is in the nature of the umowa o dzieło. The school makes so much money with this so new teachers should be made aware of it.

I think the 'nature' of an umowa o dzielo is whatever is written in it. If it says you have to teach Saturdays, well then, don't be surprised when Bell get nasty or cancel the contract when you refuse to teach Saturdays.

The same goes for you, don't feel like you have to do anything that's not in the contract. And don't sign it until you understand every detail.

Sure, in court Bell may not be able to force you to do anything aside from teach X number of hours, but Polish courts take ages. It isn't worth it for the for the foreign teacher to spend 2 years fighting in court for last months 2000zl salary should things go pear shaped.
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mdm15



Joined: 20 Jun 2012
Posts: 10
Location: Poland

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Im really confused about what exactly your point is i dont have an issue with teaching on saturdays - has it even been brought up in this thread? sure if its in the contract you sign it and do it - and nothing more. the issue is that the contract can only be set to hours to complete a job like a builder issued with a job to build a wall. They set the hours then fill it will so many demands that you will inevitably have to work more and you feel like its a full time job.

as for legal battle,its not really a battle. The Inspectorate can investigate as well as a law firm. Once teachers are aware that they dont have to fill out their pointless paperwork (schemes of work anyone?) and do PDPs etc just to keep so called "directors" in a job then everyone will be happy.
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