I work in a vibrant startup. I love the culture, I love the environment. But recently the company I'm in ran into a financial problem, and it hit my payroll. At first I just get downpayments to my salary. Now I get nothing.
My contract says I can leave the company in six months from the time I started working for them, or opt to continue my employment with them. Today's my fifth month with them.
Meanwhile I've received offers from other companies, four out of six of which I have turned down because despite my delayed wages, I told them I need to honor my six-month contract with my current employer.
Today, however, changed my mind.
My employers revealed to me that they could possibly let us all employees go because they could not pay us consistently. But it is not a sure thing. They assured me that I could get my back wages by the end of the week. With my bills nearing deadlines I had to follow up on their promise.
As of my performance I admit lacking focus in one sprint, delaying a module for one month. But when I asked my boss about my performance they told me it was okay and understanable. We spent a month practically working from our homes because we got locked out of our old office. The wages were delayed and it was summertime, where heat rises to distracting and dangerous levels where I live.
Awhile ago, I emailed the management, Skyped them, sent SMS about the urgency of my financial situation, that I need to pay the bills, etc. I had no money to travel to work even, and that I told them too. I called them many times but I could not reach their telephone numbers, and despite being online all the time they did not reply to my messages.
I'd like to think that it's not entirely their fault they ran into a financial problem, that they don't even know where to get the money to pay me, at least that's what they're telling me. But I admit feeling insulted at their radio silence on the matter. Especially that I live away from my family, my bills are racking up and they need to be paid, and I will run out of food very soon.
I feel truly sorry for their financial problems. Being an entry-level developer, I had to work long hours for little pay to rack up on work experience and get the hang of my craft. Low pay is fine with me, I just wished it were consistent. My finances would be in trouble in two months and my credit will get messed up if they don't give me my back wages within the week. Which they haven't at all.
I am taking the risk of posting this question using my real name because the problems I am having are real, despite my boss's emphasis on company secrecy. I'm in a really desperate financial setback right now.
So how do I exit gracefully? Many companies here in the Philippines are particular about the sanctity of contracts, but I really want to leave. How do I explain to my prospective employers that my company is good, but I need to eat and pay bills, and their current offer does not fulfill my needs. I also have a few pieces of equipment my current employer lent me that are worth a sum. I was also wondering if I could use that as a bargaining chip--for most likely collateral--"I will keep this until you pay me." without facing legal repercussions.
UPDATE: So far the answers told me to get a lawyer, and run the hell out of my company. I greatly appreciate all of your answers, the latter I am doing right now. However, I am not about to let go of the paychecks my would-be former employers owe me. I earned that, fair and square. I will go to a lawyer, I assure you. But I was hoping for a more strategic advice how to make them pay me what they owe me. One that doesn't need lawyers and government intervention, because putting it through the government is just too much hassle for me.