Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

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Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by Shawn » Sun Feb 14, 2016 9:16 pm

Saw this on Debito's site. Any comments on its accuracy?

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by senseiman » Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:58 pm

No idea, but reading the comments on the video it seems like it rings true for a lot of people. Very depressing to see.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by steki47 » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:33 pm

Shawn wrote:Saw this on Debito's site. Any comments on its accuracy?
Fairly accurate.
My worst year as an ALT:
Y230K
9-month contract
-6 mos @ 230K=1380K
-Dec. 75%=172.5K
-Aug. 60%=138K
-Feb. 25%=57.5K
Total-1,748,000/year (gross, mind you)

I got unemployment for 3 months to fill in the gap.

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:52 pm

1.75 million???? Holy fark. NO ONE can live on that. The only way you could possibly get by is if rent was free or close to it. That is the definition of working poor. I guess the upside is that ALTs would have the time to do night/weekend work and supplement their income.
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by senseiman » Mon Feb 15, 2016 3:34 pm

Man, that is incredibly awful. If it was part time one could at least cobble together a couple of jobs to make ends meet, but demanding a full time schedule from somebody and paying them that little? Maybe if they were employing housewives looking to earn a bit of extra money on the side it would be reasonable, but for a foreigner who has to rely on that to support themselves its just plain outrageous.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by Shawn » Mon Feb 15, 2016 7:23 pm

MacGyver wrote:1.75 million???? Holy fark. NO ONE can live on that. The only way you could possibly get by is if rent was free or close to it. That is the definition of working poor. I guess the upside is that ALTs would have the time to do night/weekend work and supplement their income.
:agree: That was my initial reaction. That freaking low? Sure, you may have time to do something on the side, but then you'll be signing your life away. So much for your "Japan experience."

"So, what did you do in Japan?"
"Worked for a pittance."
"Did you see Kyoto?"
"Nope. Too busy working."
"What about the food?"
"Cup Noodle is great!"
:rope:

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Mon Feb 15, 2016 8:03 pm

I never ALT'ed myself but I roomed with a guy who was back in '99/2000 and I believe he was on 250 a month at the time but got paid for all of August. In fact I got paid for 12 months of the year. No, actually he may have been only paid up until the end of Feb, "fired" for March and then "re-hired" in April. Contract renewal of course but I think it was that dispatch company's way of making extra money of their employees. Seems that all other dispatch companies have gone further than that now. "You don't work so no pay for you". Yeah not really how that is supposed to go. Or don't pay them but you gotta pay more for the other months to make up for it. I have heard that if the BOEs found out what dodgy shit was going on there would be hell to pay but surely they know by now.
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by steki47 » Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:55 am

MacGyver wrote:1.75 million???? Holy fark. NO ONE can live on that. The only way you could possibly get by is if rent was free or close to it. That is the definition of working poor. I guess the upside is that ALTs would have the time to do night/weekend work and supplement their income.
Those numbers do not include my PT job in the evening. Nor the deductions for taxes, pension, etc. That was a rough year. 40hrs/wk with so little to show for it. (My rent is cheap, though.)

My "better" years were not much better. 250Kx10, 60% in Aug. (0 days worked, mind you).

I find out that the BOE in my town has the budgeting committe chose the ALT company every year. That explains why the city switches between companies so often.

Also I just got a better job so I am moving out of ALT work. Yay me!

steki47

Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by steki47 » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:00 am

MacGyver wrote: Seems that all other dispatch companies have gone further than that now. "You don't work so no pay for you". Yeah not really how that is supposed to go. Or don't pay them but you gotta pay more for the other months to make up for it.
I interviewed with other ALT companies that paid a higher day rate but no transportation. Some months you would get paid 300-320K but then 50% in July, March and nothing in August, etc. Generally averages to around 2MY/year or less.
MacGyver wrote: I have heard that if the BOEs found out what dodgy shit was going on there would be hell to pay but surely they know by now.
Honestly, I feel that schools don't really care too much about it. The decision is usually made late March (for an April start) and we all play musical chairs the last week of the month. Many JTEs don't use ALTs properly anyway so what's the difference between companies or new vs experienced teachers? We generally hold flashcards and read from the text.

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:47 am

steki47 wrote:Many JTEs don't use ALTs properly anyway so what's the difference between companies or new vs experienced teachers? We generally hold flashcards and read from the text.
As you say, it all comes down to money anyway, that is the dispatch company is chosen by the one that gives the lowest tender, but then so is so much in life these days. Translation is the same. Half the time the end-client doesn't know what they are looking at anyway, or if they do, or think they do most likely, aren't professional linguists/writers anyway so don't know what is right and wrong anyway. So it all comes down to price (and in translation speed as well).
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by steki47 » Tue Feb 16, 2016 12:12 pm

MacGyver wrote: Half the time the end-client doesn't know what they are looking at anyway, or if they do, or think they do most likely, aren't professional linguists/writers anyway so don't know what is right and wrong anyway. So it all comes down to price (and in translation speed as well).
Same with ALT. Many of the JTEs don't speak English very well and quite a few don't really want us in the classroom anyway, so they go for the cheapest option. Nobody learns much, but that's not really the point, is it?

Having a bad year, hence the negativity.

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by senseiman » Tue Feb 16, 2016 2:39 pm

Same deal with proofreading. I was asked to take a look at an academic article last year after it was rejected by a journal. The English in it was atrocious (writer was non-native English speaker), but I was told the version they showed me had already been proofread through some company they had paid 70,000 Yen to (for about a 20 page article). It looked like whoever had actually done the work had at best given it a quick skim and altered a sentence or two to make it look like they had done a serious job, but had left glaring errors throughout unchecked.

It is the price they paid for subcontracting stuff out - low quality work because the person doing it has no long term incentive to develop a good reputation with the client. As a result they not only had the embarrassment of rejection by the journal (and more than a year delay in finally getting it published), but then had to find somebody else they could trust to fix the work - me, because being employed full time with decent pay I had an incentive to do it right.

Would be cool if BOEs thought the same about ALTs, but I guess since the results in that sphere (everyone not able to speak English) are so dispersed across society nobody will take it seriously. Depressing thought.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Wed Feb 17, 2016 10:29 am

senseiman wrote:Same deal with proofreading. I was asked to take a look at an academic article last year after it was rejected by a journal. The English in it was atrocious (writer was non-native English speaker), but I was told the version they showed me had already been proofread through some company they had paid 70,000 Yen to (for about a 20 page article). It looked like whoever had actually done the work had at best given it a quick skim and altered a sentence or two to make it look like they had done a serious job, but had left glaring errors throughout unchecked.

It is the price they paid for subcontracting stuff out - low quality work because the person doing it has no long term incentive to develop a good reputation with the client. As a result they not only had the embarrassment of rejection by the journal (and more than a year delay in finally getting it published), but then had to find somebody else they could trust to fix the work - me, because being employed full time with decent pay I had an incentive to do it right.
Actually, I don't entirely agree on this point. While in some ways you do indeed have incentive to get it right/do a good job -- keep your job, impress the boss, not get yelled at/criticized, and perhaps other reasons -- to say "...has no long term incentive to develop a good reputation with the client" is absolutely wrong. As a freelancer I can tell you that if I want to keep getting work and therefore getting paid, I have incentive to do a good job. In many ways much more so than the in-house slob. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can tell you that working in-house there were times when I just called it in, and much of the time, so did my colleagues. And there is a lot more politics involved working in-house. Shit, I worked with one guy in the States who was only worried about climbing the ladder/getting promoted, and if he didn't think a certain job would progress his long-term goals, he just didn't do it. Most of the time, one isn't worried about losing one's job and unless you are trying to get a raise, promotion, impress the boss for some other reason, you just cruise along. A freelancer wouldn't last very long with that attitude. You do shit work and the agency just stops using you. So in a very real sense, a freelancer is only as good as his or her last job.

There's also reputation. If I do good work which the end-client is happy with then the agency gets a good reputation and either gets more work from said end-client in the future, or end-client will perhaps recommend said agency to others. Conversely, if said end-client isn't happy, they will no longer send work to said agency and/or bitch about the agency to friends, online, etc. In the example you mention, perhaps that was a one-off job, with no work to ever come from that client again. But in many cases end-client will generally have on-going work and want to keep using that agent in the future. Assuming their work is good. If their work is poor, then they'll eventually find another agency to do the work for them. And that could be a massive loss of income for the agency. So it's in their best interests to do good work, which means choosing the right people to do the work and having good QC processes.
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by senseiman » Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:08 pm

Mac - very good points. I think it was a one-off job in the case I mentioned (well, it definitely turned out to be one after the work they did anyway). If you are a freelancer working under your own name and trying to build a reputation, then yeah I totally see how the incentive to do good work would be very strong.

If you are a guy in India who has been sent some document by a company in Japan for a client you don`t know and are being paid peanuts, the incentives would be different. I actually don`t know if that is how the company in my case operated, but that seems like a business model some are moving to.
祇園精舎の鐘の聲、諸行無常の響あり。娑羅雙樹の花の色、盛者必衰のことわりをあらはす。おごれる人も久しからず、唯春の夜の夢のごとし。たけき者も遂にほろびぬ、偏に風の前の塵に同じ。

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:04 pm

senseiman wrote:I think it was a one-off job in the case I mentioned (well, it definitely turned out to be one after the work they did anyway).
Exactly. :wink:
senseiman wrote:If you are a guy in India who has been sent some document by a company in Japan for a client you don`t know and are being paid peanuts, the incentives would be different. I actually don`t know if that is how the company in my case operated, but that seems like a business model some are moving to.
Indeed that seems to be the case, at least that's what many in the industry talk about, at least on mailing lists and FB pages I'm a member of. However, I really couldn't tell you for sure one way or the other. No doubt prices have been driven down from what they were back in the "good old days" of the bubble. I have no experience of that; I didn't get into translation until 2001. That's just what some old buggers talk about when they talk about rates. But then I can't imagine they were more efficient then, considering the proliferation of PCs and the tools that are now available. Certainly I struggle to get a rate above a certain point and certainly don't know anyone making much more than a certain figure, even though some of these old buggers working direct with companies reckon they make up to four times as me rate-wise. But then the industry is also easier to get into now, with advent of the Internet. However, I still believe that people who do good work will continue to get work and those that don't will eventually either leave the industry or go in-house. Which in some respects is a regulator of the numbers of translators.

But back to incentive. While I agree that when I've accepted low paying jobs, my incentive/motivation levels decrease. But in my case, I try not to accept offers I deem low-ball/a waste of my time mostly for the motivation reason. Because my reputation is at stake every job I do (that could be an exaggeration but I find it smarter business-wise to think that way) if it doesn't motivate me then I shouldn't be doing it. However, in the case of the guy in India, even if he accepts a rate that is a fraction of the price of mine, he still might be making a good wage by Indian standards and hence has motivation to do a good job. Chances are though that in the case of the job you mention, it was probably more about just someone who wasn't good at what they do rather than someone not motivated to do a good job. I couldn't tell you whether 70K yen for 20 pages is a good rate for that work or not as a) that's not my field, and b) when I do proofreading work I either charge by the hour or by the character/word. So 70K yen for 20 pages sounds OK (assuming it wasn't 800 words or such like per page!) but then it also depends on how much time it would take someone to do the work.
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by ArthurGrole » Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm

All very interesting, but what's any of it got to do with Nova?
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by RalphWiggum » Thu Feb 18, 2016 3:24 am

ArthurGrole wrote:All very interesting, but what's any of it got to do with Nova?
I think unless we get some current Nova instructors here there's very little to add on that particular subject!
Shit wank bollocks

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by Shawn » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:49 am

ArthurGrole wrote:All very interesting, but what's any of it got to do with Nova?
You're right. It's off topic, so I've moved the posts to a new topic. :cheers:

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Feb 18, 2016 9:48 am

Lamarr wrote: That can be a difficult one. When freelancing in anything, I think it's best to set and stick to a rate that you think you're worth compared to other people in the business. If you start lowering your rates, there's the danger of being seen as a cheapskate, and being offered more lower-paid work. That could be a dangerous cycle.
That's true, although it has been my experience that all the agencies I have signed up for you always negotiate a price at the beginning for all work. If you can't negotiate a price you are happy with then you just walk away. I have had agencies occasionally ask me to quote for work and I generally quote above my standard rate; generally the reason why they asking me to quote is cause the job is unusual/perhaps a little tricky (either the content or additional elements like formatting) and hence they don't think it's fair if I am paid the regular rate they pay me.
Lamarr wrote:I'm actually looking at getting into translation at the minute, specifically at "crowdsourced" translation on the net. One company I'm looking at puts out pieces to be translated, and anyone who's anyone can jump in there and have a go. They choose the first two translations that get sent to them (I assume they offer the customer a choice of two translations, but both the translators get paid), review them, then either accept them if they think they're good enough, or reject them if they're below standard, and re-open it to the crowd and review the next offer that gets sent in. And so on. They publish translations on their website that have been accepted. The ones I've looked at are mainly by Japanese people translating into English, and the translations are not good (they need post-editing). The emphasis seems to be on speed over quality. That relates to what was said earlier about customers not knowing any better whether it's a good or bad translation, and just going for the lowest price and quickest service.
I signed up to one of these services but never did any work cause the rate is ridiculously low. I signed up at a time I wasn't get a shitload of work and figured the "senior" rate (this particular mob have "standard" translator rates and "senior" translator rates for which you have to pass a test for both) was as low as my lowest rate at an agency (one agency doesn't pay a hell of a lot, hence I don't do a lot of work for them but occasionally they have a job that is piss easy and fairly big, hence I can smash out more by the hour and make it worth my while) so I figured what the hell, might as well while I'm not getting any work. But then started getting work and never did any work for them. The feedback for the senior test was worthwhile though. But as you say the emphasis is on speed not quality and hence the low rates. Fingers crossed I'll never have to do any work for them.

I have considered moving to SEA and working 20 hours a week for a lifestyle similar to the one here where I have to work much more for, but the wife isn't keen so I'm stuck in Japan living close to third world conditions anyway. I have seriously considered moving back to Oz where standard of living is much higher than here, but it is so expensive I'm not sure I could survive on J wages...
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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:32 pm

Lamarr wrote:That sounds very similar to the one I'm looking at. This one starts off on a "starter" level with a "translation fee" of Y9 per character (I presume that's the fee for the translator, not the customer). If your reviews (and speed) are good enough then you can do a test and move up to "standard", then "senior". They seem to chuck out a lot of short paragraphs to be translated, maybe 150-250 words each, so the pay averages in the $15-20 range for each one. Some people on there are caning it. One person had done about 200 of them in 20 days, another had done over 300 in a month or so.
Interesting. The one I referred to, called Gengo, is about 3 yen or something per character for standard and then I think it goes to 5 or 6 yen for "senior". Like the site you mention, the jobs are small and it gives you a total for the job. Actually just logged in to have a look to confirm that that is indeed how they do it. There's a job available now about archiving documents at 1604 characters paying a grand total of US$28. There's even a comment from the site stating "As the content is quite technical, the final check will be performed by the customer." I thought "senior" was supposed to be the harder stuff so I'd hate to see what the harder stuff is if the standard stuff can't be checked by the people running the site.... Apologies, it's "Pro" not "senior".
Lamarr wrote:My friend who's doing an MA in Translation (who I mentioned in an earlier post) said his lecturers recommended these crowdsourced platforms as a way of getting into it, building up some experience and getting a bit of cash. Though I have seen a certain amount of bile thrown at them by apparently more experienced translators, who reckon they drag the industry down.
Yeah that would be sound advice. You can get work whenever you want through this sort of site, which can be handy if you aren't a full-time freelancer and have other things to do (study, work) during a normal work day and generally can't accept work from agencies. You also get experience, as your friend's lecturer suggests. He wouldn't be doing MAJIT at Queensland Uni, would he? Yeah more experienced translators hate these sites because they are pulling rates down, at least supposedly. I couldn't say for sure one way or the other but makes sense they'd be putting pressure on prices seeing how low the rates are. My guess is these sites are the wave of the future. If these sites do proliferate, and more importantly, at these rates, then a lot of freelancers in first world countries will have to leave the industry, or go in-house, or go live in a third-world country. You couldn't survive on these rates in a first world country. Which would be disaster for translation. The output would be close to unusable.
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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by allblacks » Thu Feb 18, 2016 8:54 pm

I have a totally unrelated Nova update.

Apparently they gave out warning buzzers/rape whistle things to all Japanese female staff. Then, the foreign female teachers found out about this and asked for the same. Nova gave them out and implemented a policy where if a staff member did not have the device with them at all times they would be FINED for it.

Yes I said FINED!

This came from a very reliable source in Osaka Nova. Mate of mine's GF works for them.

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by sirwanksalot » Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:44 pm

steki47 wrote: Also I just got a better job so I am moving out of ALT work. Yay me!

Congrats on finding better work!

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by steki47 » Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:28 am

sirwanksalot wrote:
steki47 wrote: Also I just got a better job so I am moving out of ALT work. Yay me!

Congrats on finding better work!
Missed this. Thanks!

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Re: Neo-Nova

Unread post by MacGyver » Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:58 am

Lamarr wrote:The one I'm referring to is called Conyac.
No idea about this mob but I'm pretty sure Gengo charges the customer 9 yen per character. I had a mate introduce me to a (Romanian I think) chick looking for some J tax docs to be translated into E. She had three docs, two of which were almost identical so I said I'd do all three and only charge for two. There was also some DTP work involved as the docs she gave me were scanned PDF files. I quoted her my regular rate and she said that was too much (I think her exact words were "I can't afford to pay that much for translation") so I put her onto Gengo. I told her they cheaper than me but you get what you pay for. No idea whether she went with them or not. I was only going to charge her 50K yen so she'd struggle to get them done much cheaper than that anyway. I mean, what's she gonna save? Maybe 10K yen?
Lamarr wrote:My friend is doing his at Leeds Uni in the UK. I read a blog of a live-at-home mum in Tokyo doing work through Gengo, and she seemed quite happy with it.
Yeah I'm sure she was. For someone like that, it's perfect. Make a few extra bucks but don't have to leave the house. Hubby is making the money they live off so she doesn't need to make a proper wage.
Lamarr wrote:My guess is that these crowdsourced translation platforms will cater more to people wanting shorter, "everyday" pieces translating, whereas for the "big stuff", technical documents and so on, people will still be looking for a quality translation and will pay more for that.
Certainly seems that way now. Hopefully the rest of the industry won't go that way but who knows. I've seen Gengo offering their wares at trade shows so they certainly are trying to cut into the market that's for sure.
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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by inflames » Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:24 pm

I had a friend who worked a few years ago as an ALT in Kitakyushu - he went there suddenly, after quitting Nova (it was a step up for him apparently) and started work ASAP in October (or so, IIRC). He said he worked at night part time (the dispatch company hooked him up with business lessons).

I did some freelance translating and gave up on it - simply wasn't worth the hassle. My wife does a fair bit of translating (and dealing with English speakers for her work) so I get asked about stuff 3 times a week or so, and I can completely see how something simply just wasn't corrected - a phrase my wife said once roughly translates as "but the doctor wrote it" (she had to meet with the doctor and go over it) and that sums up a lot (I passed Gengo's terrible translation test before - I just remember the first part being one sentence with several possible translations - I laughed a bit at this). Not to mention that there are times when I just can't understand what people mean in the first place (with non-native speakers).

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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by lordCONAN » Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:34 pm

I did a year as an ALT at elementary schools in Hiroshima. The pay was pretty atrocious, but to be honest the working hours made in such a cake walk. I could easily take up private lessons and priesting on the side to supplement my income to a good amount without really adding that much to my schedule. The most unfortunate part was the fact that the contracts are bid on yearly, meaning that my company lost the contract the following year, and I was out of the job. I really wouldn't blame the dispatch companies, they have to win the contract by bidding the lowest, so of course that is going to show in the work conditions for the employees.

It's also unlikely the BoE will take on direct hires for every contract. The logistics of that would be ridiculous.

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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Mar 31, 2016 8:56 am

lordCONAN wrote:The most unfortunate part was the fact that the contracts are bid on yearly, meaning that my company lost the contract the following year, and I was out of the job.
A friend of mine is in this exact situation. His dispatch company lost the contract so he was out of a job. But then the new dispatch company came along and offered him his old job right back. So presumably the new dispatch company bid without a teacher. Maybe they had a backup plan but it seems a dickish thing to do to me. But then the whole dispatch business is a race to the bottom and clearly the only thing BOEs give a shit about is money.
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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by inflames » Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:35 am

Pretty much every dispatch company does that (bidding without teachers). I am friends with some coordinators at dispatch companies in Osaka - the coordinators who actually care usually have issues with the Japanese staff as the staff are judged on business, and they'll go out and do stuff like bid on shit contracts (such as contracts in the middle of nowhere with one day a week, or 2 days a week that are different every week but the BoE wants only one teacher).

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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:44 am

inflames wrote:Pretty much every dispatch company does that (bidding without teachers).
So what is their plan then? Steal the teacher already working there from the other dispatch company? And what if that teacher doesn't accept the offer from the new dispatch company? Can they scramble to find a teacher within 2 weeks? And what happens if they can't get a teacher even though they bid on the contract, which to me assumes they have a teacher?
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Re: Working Poor ALTs in Kitakyushu City

Unread post by inflames » Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:18 pm

That is where the tension between foreign and Japanese staff arises - the Japanese salespeople go out and do stuff without even consulting the foreign coordinator, who is then left to scramble to get someone to take a shitty job.

The Japanese salesperson's job is to go out and get contracts and not worry about teachers, because that is the coordinators job. Hence they basically take what they can get in this instance. If they can't get a teacher, they have basically send the coordinator out until they find someone they can dupe into going out there. I know of one place that was basically faking qualifications of teachers to get the school to accept them.

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