Tozen getting creative.

From time to time, I visit the website of the Tokyo General Worker’s union group, nicknamed “Tozen”.

Recently, the group has begun a push to find out exactly what Dispatch ALT companies receive from their boards of education for supplying foreign English teachers to the schools.

They focused on one company, Joytalk, in this post, linked here. What is nice about this initiative is that this is Tozen’s speed. It does not require a lot of heavy lifting on their part, and, naturally, the ALT workers are indeed a little curious as to what the boards of education are paying over.

When I had blogged about Interac a few months ago, I had repeated the figure of $5,000, a head, as what the dispatch company keeps for each worker that they place in a school. In order for the dispatch system to continue working, the dispatch company needs to get a cut of the money, this is for sure. I am sure that the union, though, is pointing out that the 3.7 million yen that Joytalk gets is a lot different than the 2.2 million or so that the ALT sees. In that instance, the difference is more like 1.5 million yen (about $19,480).

If the per head figure is not $5,000, and, in fact, is more like $19,000, then there is no excuse that the social insurances aren’t part of the package. As I have been saying, the Japanese government’s education ministry could fix this problem in an afternoon, by saying that only the companies who certify compliance with the social insurance law will be allowed to have contracts with the boards of education.

Maybe that is a lot to ask from a country whose government relies on our military to help defend it. But, in the meantime, Tozen’s latest initiative is a welcome one, and one that seems to fit their style of advocacy. (Notice I didn’t say “slacktivism“. And, it is not an online petition.)

[Update: an acquaintance connected to Tozen points out to me that, in some cases, the reason the Dispatch ALT company doesn’t pay the social insurances is that they claim the “employees” are gyoumu itaku, which is translated invariably as “entrusted service” workers or as independent contractors.

If someone is bona fide gyoumu itaku, then they are only eligible for the national programs, which many ALTs coming into Japan do not enroll in. And there are indeed jobs for foreigners that are set up as independent contractor work. But I think the ALTs are really dispatch employees (haken roudousha) where the schools send the work orders and requirements through the dispatcher. In other words, that there is some trick going on to avoid admitting that the ALT is really not an independent contractor, but a dispatch employee.

I grow a little bit bored with these debates, because it become really, rully clear after a while that the Japanese bureaucracy has already laid down the maze as to why the foreigner doesn’t get, and, you, as foreigner, are basically asked to run around in the bureaucratic maze until you run out of breath.

This is why, in my view, it has always been that you enroll in both the national pension and in the health insurance right when you come to Japan. They are going to send you the bill, and then you make arrangements if you can’t pay.

In the ideal, you hold off paying for a year, and then point out to the ward office that you were employed by X company, and they should have been paying shakai hoken.

This flips the little game from a maze where YOU screwed up in the beginning, and are somewhat not legitimate, to one where the employer (ex-employer) screwed up and is getting the dunning letter.

If only a handful of people had the sense to do this the right way, a lot of these jobs where you get $19,000 and the employer gets $19,000 would be structured so that you got more and the dispatcher, less.

Again, we are talking about ALT and things like that. There are independent contractor type situations in Japan, and you have to know which is which.]