August 8, 2010

Labor Laws, Dental Self-Treatment, Financial Free Fall

Get Out of My Office! You are Fired!

In some countries labor laws are so strict that firing someone is a difficult, lengthy and expensive proposition. However, many expats, both the managers and employees are not aware of those. Hence, western managers brought into the country fire people for the reasons that they would fire them at home for (many of which are trivial). In the US one can fire people for being late five minutes or for simply not liking them. However, “You are fired! Get out of my office!” will not fly in many societies where you cannot do those things by law, and where unions and labor boards are so strong that their protection for employees seems to be absolute.

So, a British company in Kuwait, for example, is subject to Kuwaiti labor laws, and when in Japan, the Japanese labor code kicks in. Hence, a sadistic foreign henchman who thrives on power can no longer exercise his prerogative for kicking people out at will the way he/she could often do at home.

Even if an employee’s contract is not renewed, some countries will still see it as firing and local laws to protect the worker will apply.

I remember when a British employee did not have his contract renewed in Kuwait for no apparent reason except some complaints by customers. He was let go along with five more members of staff by a British manager who saw that as a sufficient reason to not renew their contracts. Most fired people just left it at that, but one decided to hire an attorney and fight them in court. He was surprised to see that the Kuwaiti laws favored him and he was awarded a fat settlement to compensate him for the trauma. It took him a bit of time, but not only he was awarded a tidy sum for his humiliation but the tyrannical manager was fired instead. Sorry, it is not the UK here. You can’t do those things.

I personally was once told in Japan by a British administrator that my contract for the next year was not to be renewed. The reason? Being late on several occasions. However, I contacted the labor union, and it turned out that in Japan, you cannot fire people for being late. You can dock their pay and reprimand them, but it is not a “fireable” offense. After the union got involved, the company had to either reinstate me or pay me money for the months that I had missed while the case was disputed. “You did not renew a person’s contract for being late? Ridiculous!” I pocketed the money. The company that initially was unwilling to re-hire me also had to pay other costs pertaining to the ‘trial’.

So, expat employees – study the labor law in your host country and know your rights! Don’t just walk away with the “ Oh, well…” if a livid-faced, saliva-spitting Western boss is firing you. Check if your offense is trivial or not by local codes. Contact an attorney, and if you find out your rights have been violated, fight! You can get big money from the company. And you, arrogant Western managers-tyrants! Beware! You are not on your home turf anymore. Wait till you are faced with the devil himself- the labor regulations of your new country. You can and will get burnt big time. Ouch!


Dental Self-Treatment

An unforeseen consequence of cheap dental care overseas can be that when you get home (wherever your home is), the pain can persist or complications develop. I had three dental bridges put in the Philippines, two teeth pulled, several cavities filled and a crown put in all for the paltry sum of USD1000. However, I had no time to wait for the thing to heal and left the country immediately after. When I arrived to my temporary home in the Middle East, I realized that not all was well. The pain from six ‘reduced’ teeth upon which the bridges were resting was unbearable. It was so intense that I was howling during the day and crying all through the nights. Work became impossibility. What could I do? Fly back to the Philippines to have the teeth re-fitted? Miss work and pay huge airline fares? Go to a local hospital and have everything fixed there? Would they know exactly what the Philippine dentist had done? As I was hesitating, the pain would not let up.

So, I decided to cure myself. I went to the local pharmacy and bought antibiotics. Then I bought the most potent pain killers they had. Many things can be purchased over the counter without a prescription where I am at. I put myself on a strict antibiotics/painkiller regime. After 10 days the pain subsided a bit, after another 10 days, it got even better and after about two weeks more, it was completely gone. This is how I dealt with the problem on site while I had to work. I am not recommending this as a solution for all such ills but it has worked for me.


Financial Free Fall

When you go from a rich country like Saudi Arabia to a poorer one like Indonesia with pockets full of hard currency, your financial state can be compared to a weightless free fall. You just keep falling down the money space- the chute of dimensions in which you can now move freely without thinking for a relatively long time about how long it will take for you to land on earth and awaken with a jolt. Just like in a free fall where there is sufficient distance for you to enjoy your complete freedom of movement without any restraints. Oh what a feeling to enjoy for a month or two!


Instead of trying to learn a conventional and well-known language or culture, it will be very rewarding if you learn a more remote language and devote yourself to a more exotic culture. Why not learn Telugu or say, a minority language such as Cebuano. You will be worshipped by the natives if you dedicate yourself to integrating into a society that is not main-stream.



Hero said...

Thanks for the tip about labor laws, Ladislav. I've been the victim of a couple of psycho bosses myself. These people would actually write me up for asking dumb questions. I'll consider myself lucky if I last a couple of years at my new job.

petehsiung said...

Ladislav, I agree about how the western bosses at the foreign should behave. Instead of sticking to what worked back at their home country, they should observe and follow the local laws. Especially as the phrase goes "When in Rome, do as the romans do".