English Teachers Left Without Pay After Training Centers Shuttered in China

By That's Guangzhou, October 16, 2019

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Web International English appears to be finished in China.

An internal memo from Web in Guangzhou and Foshan, forwarded to That’s by a source familiar with the situation, revealed that the company’s “training centers could no longer sustain staying in business” as a result of “no funds.” Workers’ compensation packages are said to be affected by the closure, with teachers not expected to receive their complete salaries, according to the internal announcement. The memo goes on to inform now-former employees about resignation procedures as well as a transferal process for workers interested in seeking employment at an alternative company.

A teacher who formerly taught at one of Web’s Guangzhou centers said that teachers and students were led to believe that centers in Guangzhou and Foshan were doing fine and would continue independently from centers in other Chinese cities, which have been closing down in recent weeks. It wasn’t until Tuesday night that teachers and students learned of the company’s current situation.  

READ MORE: Teaching in China is Risky for Foreigners These Days, Here’s Why

On the Guangzhou-Foshan Web English WeChat account, two announcements were sent out between 11.42pm and 12.12am last night regarding the Guangzhou and Foshan center closures. A WeChat post for Guangzhou students included a schedule for when former students can come in and file for a refund while a post for Foshan students stated that the center will not be open for three days and to check back in the near future for posting information.

Image via @a真zhen/Weibo

On Weibo, the hashtag #GuangzhouFoshanWebEnglishStopsBusiness# (#广佛韦博英语停止营业#) began trending Wednesday morning, with multiple netizens calling out the company for closing its doors without refunding students. One Web student voiced her disdain on Weibo just hours after learning about the training center closures. She said, “It’s obvious that this has been going on for a long time. The company gave students no warning in advance, only saying that Guangzhou and Foshan run independently and that there would be no influence [from other cities]. And the result, now they’re telling us that the business is closed, WTF, what about the money I’ve paid? Can I stop my loan? I don’t want to pay the bank without even taking classes.”

The company’s sudden closure in South China comes hot on the heels of its Shanghai and Beijing centers closing down in recent weeks, which has led to many students filing complaints after agreeing to take out loans to pay for training center fees, according to 21st Century Business Herald.

A report by Beijing News last week showed Web’s Shanghai headquarters office virtually vacant, with only a handful of former workers hanging around to ask for their final paycheck. A former employee told Beijing News that when staff returned on October 8 following the National Day holiday, the police and other government agencies had gotten involved and that staff from headquarters were asked to resign.

On October 13, Shine reported that Gao Weiyu, founder and CEO of the company, issued a letter on Saturday, stating that Web had financial difficulties due to a decline in performance as well as rising costs dating back to last year. EF Education First has agreed to take on some of Web’s students while Web’s management team continues discussions with other English training centers.

According to Gao’s profile on enterprise credit record website tianyancha.com, cited by Shine, Gao had 95 companies with 124 risk warnings related to their practices, which includes disputes over infringement of consumer rights.

The company has been operating since 1998, with over 150 centers in 60 cities across China, according to Web’s website.  

READ MORE: Online Foreign Teachers’ Personal Info to Be Made Public in China

[Cover image via @情未了2286613951/Weibo]

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