Teachers at the English Schools Foundation have hired a public relations firm to boost their image because they are worried about being branded money-grabbing expatriates. The move comes after the end of a recent industrial dispute over pay cuts, during which the teachers felt they were unfairly portrayed as greedy by some of the Chinese-language media. The Association of Professional Teachers of ESF Schools has hired Corporate Communications, the firm headed by former broadcaster and newspaper columnist Ted Thomas, to spearhead its public relations strategy. In March, the teachers voted to end industrial action over a 4.4 per cent pay cut, introduced after a review body concluded that ESF teachers were among the highest-paid in the world. The association's spokesman, Julian Harniess, said: 'We feel that [ESF] head office is not going to support the teachers' pay issues. They haven't done so today and we don't expect them to do so in the future. 'We wanted to get our own voice. [During the recent episode] the parents had a voice but the foundation decided to keep quiet. We felt that as people were discussing us, we were not able to put forward in any way our case. We feel that we have been let down by the ESF. 'One minute they were telling us that the exam results could not be better and the next they told us that we had to take a pay cut because we were overpaid.' Mr Harniess said the association wanted to counter a perception that the teachers' salaries were too high. 'I think in some quarters we were perceived as rich and spoilt gweilo teachers who were overpaid and underworked.' Meanwhile, the association plans to continue to lobby on behalf of ESF teachers' rights, including the issue of salaries, Mr Harniess said. 'Every year our exams stand up against any other school system in the world. It's down to the hard work of the teachers who give up a lot of security, family and pension schemes to come to work in Hong Kong. 'I am not saying it is a hardship posting, but they do it knowing that they will be recompensed. If you want an excellent international school with native English speakers, then you have to attract them,' he said. 'Otherwise you are not going to get them, and you'll get second- and third-rate [people].'