Public schools here [Kashiwa, Chiba] have been unable to start their native speaker-taught English classes this school year after the city's board of education was accused of violating labor laws with foreign language teachers.
According to the Kashiwa Municipal Board of Education, it has been instructed by the local labor office to change its labor relationship with foreign assistant language teachers (ALTs) in the city's elementary and junior high schools after it engaged in illegal employment practices.
The local education board entrusted part of its English curriculum for primary and secondary school students to a Tokyo-based staffing agency between 2007 and 2009, and a total of 23 foreign teachers belonging to the agency worked as ALTs at 61 local public elementary and junior high schools during this period. Their contracts expired at the end of last month.
The article goes on to say that instructors were working as temporary employees under the guise of subcontractors, and demanding that their contracts be extended. When they complained to the labour board, the board investigated and found that the instructors were under the direct supervision of the schools they worked at even though they were working under dispatch contracts. The problem with this kind of arrangement is that:
Under the current law, companies and other business operators must offer a direct contract to their temporary workers after they have completed the first three years of work. Moreover, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's labor guidelines require a minimum three-month interval before the two parties enter into another temporary contract.
The city's board of education had planned to terminate its English class teacher outsourcing contract and employ temporary English teachers directly starting this April. However, as the labor office judged that the education board had already forced its contracted foreign teachers to work as normal temporary staff, it became impossible for the city to renew the contracts right away, in accordance with the ministry guidelines prohibiting consecutive temporary contracts of over three years.
The BOE has announced that it will comply with the labour board's order, although English classes have been suspended until July. This is a good first step in breaking what I called "the terrible triangle" in ALT teaching jobs. The complaints to labour boards are having an effect.