I mentioned recently in the forums that NHK was putting together a report on Nova. The report aired on NHK on June 30 at 7:30 AM, and had more to do with problem surrounding ALT dispatch companies than Nova. Fortunately, the report has found its way onto YouTube.
The reports begins with the Nova bunny beating down an employee. This is the teacher's union skit in Shibuya aimed at educating the public about how Nova treats its employees. The beef is that employment with Nova is unstable (all instructors have to renew their contracts annually) and the company needs to look after its workers better instead of being a slave to profits.
The report then switches to a union office in Tokyo that handles 1,000 consultations a month from instructors regarding issues such as sudden dismissals and contracts that are not renewed.
A Canadian, who has contracted with a dispatch company and teaches English 40 hours a week at an elementary school, visits the office. His problem is that the dispatch company won't enroll him in shakai hoken, the national health insurance and pension schemes. As the instructor explains, the dispatch company refused to enroll him because the company was "too small" and that shakai hoken was for Japanese people only.
Three years ago, he was diagnosed with kidney stones. At one point, the treatments and surgeries cost him over 250,000 yen, all of which he paid out of his own pocket because he did not have health insurance. In total, he paid approximately 700,000 yen. Fortunately for him, the union was able to negotiate with the dispatch company and get him enrolled in the national health plan. Unfortunately for him, the dispatch company terminated him last year.
The report then notes the trend of more English being taught in elementary and junior high schools across Japan. In all, there are about 10,000 foreign instructors teaching English with more than half of them employed through dispatch companies. This, of course, has lead to problems.
At a General Union rally in Match this year, the instructors demanded better working conditions saying the terms of their employment is illegal.
In Osaka, school boards contract with a dispatch company who provides English instructors. Although the instructor is hired by the dispatch company and should be taking orders from the company, but it was found that the schools were assigning classes to the instructors, which violates the Labour Dispatch Law.
This type of labour issue is not limited to Osaka, however. Part 2 opens with the story of Samantha, an American living in Chiba and teaches English at an elementary school via Interac. Interac supplies more than 200 school boards across Japan with over 1,000 instructors. But just as with the cases in Osaka, she receives assignments directly from the school when it should be Interac who gives Samantha her marching orders.
Each week, Samantha creates a teaching schedule after consulting with the teachers, and then sends it off to Interac. A few days later, Interac sends back the very same schedule as her official schedule for the week.
A labour expert notes that cases like Samantha's conflict with the law. The expert notes that it is against the Labour Dispatch Law for employees contracted with a dispatch company to submit reports and have them rubber stamped by the company.
As a result of the labour problems, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology issued notices two years ago to school boards across Japan stating that the use of dispatch companies to hire instructors was illegal. The school board where Samantha works, however, claims to have not known about the notice.
After Samantha found out that her employment was illegal, she asked the school board to make improvements. Although she works 8-5 and 40 hours a week, her contract with Interac limits her hours to 29.5 a week making her ineligible for shakai hoken. Instead of talking with Interac, she took her case directly to the school, but they refused to hear her out. According to the head of the school board, the school had no plans to directly hire instructors, and would be stuck with the task of having to find a new instructor in the event an instructor quit. But as the interview makes clear, the school frames the issue as a matter of trust--they trust specialized companies like Interac to provide them with good instructors.
Comment: So are we supposed to believe that foreign instructors are not trustworthy?
Back to Samantha, she is thinking about retuning to the United States. Her story concludes by stating the obvious--with more foreign teachers working in Japan, resolving their labour problems is a big issue. NHK also points out that Interac refused to be interviewed.
The report wraps with a question: Why are these dispatch contracts being carried out if they are illegal? According to school board officials in Osaka, using teachers provided by dispatch companies means the schools don't have to worry about the terms and conditions of employment and the instructor's salaries. As for the school boards in Osaka who got nailed for their practices, they are currently considering hiring teachers directly or re-working the terms and conditions of the contracts.
Comment: This is what makes contracting with companies like Interac appealing to schools--they can provide a steady stream of cheap instructors.