Supinfo staff fight for back pay
By Matt Salusbury
As we went to press, teaching staff at several campuses of troubled international higher education institute for computer science Supinfo were being reimbursed for pay arrears due – arrears that date back at least three months, and in some cases up to three years (But see update below)
Headquartered in Brussels, the private-sector Supinfo International University delivers courses taught mostly in English. There are some 23 Supinfo branches and franchises in France, as well as over thirty campuses elsewhere.
In November classes at Supinfo’s Toulouse campus were interrupted by two teachers armed with placards, who told students, ‘We are sorry to interrupt your evening, but you must be made aware of the practice of management,’ reported news site La Depeche. One of the teachers, Delphine Burglé, said they had filed a complaint with local police and that ‘the school owes me €5,350’ for a hundred teaching hours. The Toulouse duo were apparently inspired by two colleagues with pay arrears from Supinfo Bordeaux, who ‘received a transfer of money owed by the school’ the day after picketing a lecture in protest.
Students returning to Supinfo Réunion in November all received an email from teaching staff informing them they had not been paid. News agency Imaz Presse Reunion reported one student who received the email as saying, ‘We knew that some teachers were not paid, but we had no idea that some delays date back nearly three years.’
An unnamed Supinfo professor told Imaz that the Réunion campus had experienced a crash in enrolments, down from around 180 students last year to just a hundred this year. The source said of Supinfo, ‘The problem is that they finance unprofitable schools. But they do not want to close [them].’
A source within Supinfo told the Gazette that after the staff email to all students, staff began receiving offers from management to reimburse arrears, which in the case of one colleague would take two years to clear. Subsequently the source was informed by email that Supinfo ‘has credited my account with half my pay and the rest will be sent next month’.
Alick Mouriesse, president of the Supinfo group, explained in a French-language email to the Gazette that a legal dispute between Supinfo and its partners and franchisees had negatively affected enrolments at the Supinfo Bordeaux and Toulouse campuses, while an ‘administrative blockage’ at the Supinfo Réunion campus – coupled with communication difficulties with a campus 12,000 miles from Supinfo’s headquarters – had contributed to enrolments declining beyond the break-even point. Mouriesse added that these factors had pushed Supinfo into ‘orientating’ itself towards a local partner, a model which worked successfully for its two Caribbean campuses in Martinique and Guadeloupe. He assured the Gazette that ‘as of 30 November, 100 per cent of teachers concerned will be reimbursed’ and that ‘as of 21 November it is already the case for 70 per cent of them’.
Update: Our source at Supinfo says Reunion campus teachers were not paid arrears by the December 15 deadline.