Kashiwa, Chiba ALT situation better or worse for teachers?

The story so far:

Through a charge brought in the Labor and Health ministry by Tokyo Nambu Foreign Workers Caucus (before it split), the Kashiwa Municipal Board of Education was told that the way it hired assistant language teachers (ALTs) was illegal. On the face of it, it looked like the employment relationship was “dispatch”, meaning the dispatch company (here it was IES) sends an ALT to the elementary, junior or senior high school to work under the instruction of the school.

In fact, what often goes on is that the ALT is treated as “gyomu itaku” (basically, independent contractor). This is done in order to get around another law, which says that a teacher who has been dispatched for three years must be hired as a direct employee. The school districts had not wanted to do this, and so once the relationship was established, the incentive was to make the terms very hazy. (This is typical Japanese, you know. Again, talking about people who have power in a situation.)

The Kashiwa board ran up against another rule, that there had to be a three-month layoff between hiring a certain type of contracted worker, and making the person a direct hire. For the life of me, I don’t think anybody in the press got down to the bottom of why this became part of the big issue, but apparently it was enough to force the English classes to do without native speakers for three months.

In normal dispatch situations, once the three years have passed, the law says the employer must hire the dispatched employee as a direct hire. Now, here and there, Japanese simply don’t honor law, but, again, that is its own issue. There is no three-month layoff period in that situation, so it isn’t clear why there is one in this one. To me, it smells like bad news, (a smell even worse than the one that some of Sean’s posters says emanates from a neighborhood there where people are using the street as a urinal.)

I picked up this comment while perusing Sean’s site, “Let’s Japan”.

So, from what has been said around the Kashiwa area, things got worse instead of better. The teachers are making even less than last year and the schools have to communicate through all the chains of command just to get a schedule to the ALTs. There is no communication at all without the dispatch company verifying every detail of the schedule before the ALT gets it. This is how it is through out most of Chiba. The Japanese English teacher, usually sitting across from the ALT, has to send the schedule to the BOE, then the BOE “checks” it and sends it to the dispatch company. Once it’s all been verified, the ALT receives it 2 weeks later via email or fax. This has been the basic setup and some schools follow it to the tee, while others simply do whatever meets their needs. If you’re an ALT in Chiba, you can verify and tell your story.

Now METI [Note: I think the poster means MEXT] wants the schools to submit an additional form recording the times worked by the ALT. A rep. from METI is going to each BOE in Chiba to verify the work time of each ALT in Chiba. There is no word yet to know what will happen with this data. Most likely it will mean further number crunching and following the money. This can only mean that they are working to cut costs and pay for future contracts.

Original here.

The stuff about the piss smell, here. (I just find that part hard to believe. Japan is pretty clean.)

So, if you check either FWC or Tozen, you find nothing about the situation—even though it’s almost July. [Update: I am told that the particular union involved is Chiba Federation of Unions (Chiba Rouren Tokatsu Union), not NAMBU or Tozen. See article here.]

I think the problem is, the union found one technical violation, and so the school board came up with another technical excuse for why they couldn’t do what the ALTs in the Hazy Zone of Dispatch or Subcontract wanted.

That’s what it seems to me, having been around here five plus now. The union made a stink about one thing, so the Japanese came up with another excuse why they can’t do the remedy. This is so typical.

If the Let’s Japan poster is accurate, now there is even some project, with a lot of hands involved, measuring and checking things. And rechecking them. Why? So there will be a lot of other things to talk about—instead of talking about the fact that there was an illegal labor situation where the just (i.e. fair) remedy seems to have been ignored.

Normally in Japan, when a regulator tells you that you are out of compliance, then (unless you can do some sneaky sh*t in the shadows to get support from some higher-up official), your only other choice is to comply with the regulators’ directives.

When it involves foreigners, though, it seems to be a pattern or find excuses and/or create a bunch of supplemental projects out of it.

[Update: from another post at Sean’s

It’s [the] temporary dispatch law, that after 3 years of using the same company, the contract needs to have a 3 month cooling off period. Basically, there is another law that says if you work for a company for 3 years they must directly hire you.
So, as long as they have a 3 month break, they can get a new contract.

It’s a real battle. If more people join the union it can help everyone. I don’t expect to get my job back, but I expect them to have work a lot harder to duck over and muck up and moreigners, I mean foreigners.

So the Dispatch Law says that, after 3 years, the dispatched employee has to be hired full-time. On the other hand, the same law says that a company receiving dispatch services cannot use the same dispatch company for more than 3 years, without a three-month “cooling off” period? (Which leaves the workers stuck with 3 months to do something else that ends in “off”?)

So it sounds like the best that the workers got was the chance at another dispatch contract assignment—which isn’t exactly direct hire, is it? ]

2 thoughts on “Kashiwa, Chiba ALT situation better or worse for teachers?

  1. Now, here and there, Japanese simply don’t honor law

    You can say the same about any other nationality or ethnicity; the only variable is which laws are ignored.

    Anyway, I think the best strategy for most employment problems (from the employee’s perspective) is to get the Labor Ministry’s inspectors involved. Unions are, for the most part, pretty useless in this country.

    1. Joe, yes, I know what you’re saying. But there is a special way the evasion is done here. Sure, I’ve seen people not follow the law in America time and again. In Japan, though, there is a style to this.

      I’m trying to hit the nail on the head. It’s as if the people have an approach to it like:

      a) “Here are the laws we follow to the letter”; and
      b) “Here are the laws that we treat as some kind of joke, if even that.”

      In America, the illegality is more along the lines of, “yeah, sure it’s the law, and watch me break it!” The emphasis is on the defiance, not whether the law is actually even legitimate in itself.

      When the (again, handful of) Japanese don’t follow the law, it’s done in a way as if the law itself has NO legitimacy.

      As to the unions, I don’t know if they’re useless as much as marching to the beat of a different drummer, eccentric, and chasing after quixotic agendas. Maybe, that’s useless. From my experience with them, it leaves me wondering “if only they could get their acts together.” I think the labor standards enforcers are even more useless. In my dealings with one some time back (early 2009), they were very polite and took all my information. But I sense that the minute they hit up with resistance, which could be as little as the other side saying “no” and offering a b.s. excuse, they back down. (Because, now they have the excuse as the reason for not doing their jobs!)

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