Japanese cash crisis hits NZ tutors

Hundreds of young New Zealanders have been caught up in financial problems affecting Japan’s biggest private English language school, Nova.

Japanese newspapers reported that the company was closing 200 of its 900 campuses after the Government imposed a six-month ban on new long-term student contracts at the company in June.

A New Zealand Embassy spokesman said two New Zealanders affected by the closures or non-payment of wages had contacted the embassy but Kiwis working for Nova would “probably [be in the] … hundreds”.

Ben Takizawa (formerly McGrigor), an Aucklander who taught English in Osaka for a year until February, said about 10 per cent of the company’s 5000 foreign teachers were New Zealanders.

Another New Zealander, who did not want to be named because he still works for the company, said he had yet to receive his pay for August, which was due on September 14.

He has a Japanese wife and two children aged 6 months and 4 years and is now looking for another job.

“I just want New Zealanders to know that Nova is not a good option at the moment,” he said. “They are late on pay this month for teachers, in July the staff salaries were late, and supposedly the rents haven’t been paid on a number of branches and they are closing branches down.

“It’s just not a safe option to come over at the moment.”

But an Auckland University student who was interviewed by a Nova recruiter in Auckland on Saturday said the interviewer, an Australian based at Nova’s Sydney office, did not mention anything about the company’s problems.

“The only thing he mentioned about the business was that they were expanding – a new market opportunity had opened in Taiwan.”

He said the recruiter interviewed 11 applicants in Auckland and also visited Dunedin and Wellington.

The New Zealander still working for Nova said: “I can’t believe they are still recruiting people. It’s criminal. People are coming over to just a mess. They don’t know about it. It’s wrong.”

Nova’s problems stem from an investigation by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry which found the company was requiring students to pay in advance, then refusing to refund their money in full if they pulled out.

At its peak, the company had 480,000 students. But it said last month that student numbers would be down 19.2 per cent for the year to September.

The New Zealand teacher, a supervisor at his branch, said most teachers had been paid but supervisors were still waiting for their August pay.

“I think they have just run out of money. There are a lot of stories floating round. They are not really telling us anything, they are just keeping us in the dark.”

The New Zealand Embassy said it was referring New Zealanders to the Nova union and to the Japanese Government’s labour counselling offices.

“The embassy is continuing to monitor the situation and we remain open to receive inquiries and provide the best advice we can,” the spokesman said.

“We would advise people … to make sure [to] seek full information about a company before choosing to get a job with that company.”