American International School
American International School Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: American International School (AIS) in Dubai has notified some teachers about unpaid leaves and salary cuts, citing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to documents, the measures will cover the period from April 1 to August 31 and “at the end of this period the situation will be reviewed”.

Some teachers said when they refused the “offer” from the school operator, Athena Education, they received a letter saying, “due to the current lockdown of schools as per government regulations, we cannot amend our offer and therefore cannot accept your rejection of the same”.

The purported letter asked them to “reconsider” and sign the “annex contract”. Some teachers said they have not yet signed.

All the teachers who communicated with Gulf News requested anonymity.

“I will see what will happen when the new month [May] starts, then I will decide what to do,” said a teacher. Another staff member said she has not received further communication since the letter asking her to reconsider.

The teachers said the letter about unpaid leave was sent on April 22 but covers the period starting from April 1, adding that they believe they should be paid for working the number of days in between.

‘Following rules’

Ian McNiff, Group Director of Schools, Athena Education, told Gulf News all steps are being taken in accordance with “the contract” and “government regulation”.

McNiff comments came in general terms regarding queries, not referring to specific cases, which he would not discuss out of confidentiality reasons.

The unpaid leave comes with a “subsistence allowance” of Dh1,500 for “the duration of the period up and until they are able to and choose to leave for their home country”, according to a document said by teachers to be a letter from the HR.

Promise to pay

Some teachers also said 50 per cent of their March salary was deducted, which will be “reimbursed following the permanent re-opening of schools subject to fee collections”, according to a copy of another supposed HR letter.

McNiff reiterated that the remaining amount will be duly reimbursed, adding “we don’t know when [exactly] but we are working very hard to bring that date sooner than later”.

Struggling teacher

A “core subject teacher” said she was the sole breadwinner of her family and was not in a position to make ends meet with a salary cut. She said it was “unfair” to ask teachers to take a salary cut while “only a few” parents had not paid the fees yet, suggesting that the school was not severely impacted by the financial repercussions of the pandemic.

McNiff said the school has already supported “many families” facing financial hardship and “discounts have been given throughout the year”.

“Every single parent who has a particular difficulty, we are working with accordingly… Have we discounted? Yes, we have. Are we taking into account different families circumstances? Yes, we are. We’re are allowing all sorts of payment plans.”

Supporting jobs

McNiff said though fee collections were lower because of the wider economic impact, the school was not making jobs redundant and continuing undisrupted online learning.

He reiterated that all steps and proedures are being taken in line with “government guidance to the letter”.