Liberation In Iwate

In 2007, I recieved an email from an Interac employee that was interested in being directly hired by his BOE. He had tried in earnest to improve his working conditions through Interac, but they were uninterested in signing him up for Shakai Hoken, unemployment insurance, giving him a raise, etcetera. At the time I was in Osaka, and Iwate (the prefecture north of Tokyo, not the city in Osaka) is quite a long way away from the normal base of operations of Tokyo Nambu, much less Osaka’s General Union Interac Branch. I was not able to meet with him face to face, but I was able to provide him with a lot of information and advice that he was able to use to convince his BOE (Board of Education) that taking the plunge to hire him directly would be in everyone’s best interest. He has now been directly employed since spring of 2008 with no middle-man dispatch company to impede his rights as a worker under Japanese law.

This is his story, in his own words. Enjoy and be inspired. Any other ALTs in Iwate prefecture that want to liberate their BOE from their dispatch company can contact me and I will put you in contact with our friend, “The Abolitionist”.

In solidarity

(NOTE: His experiences and his claims may not match yours exactly. Contracts can have different variables in different parts of the country. They can even be different in the same part of the country, but with different BOEs. If his experience does not match yours exactly, don’t forget to take the possible variations into account.)


From “The Abolitionist” in Iwate Prefecture:

It would be very sad for you, a great ALT, to resign to quitting your job and even leaving Japan, a country you love, because of Interac. Giving that much power to an amoral, impersonal business would indeed be a shame. That’s why I’m writing this. It’s not hopeless. A few years ago I was in this situation but my BOE cut out the middleman and gave me a direct contract. I would like to give you some tips on how to make this happen.

First of all, your BOE needs to know things. Like the conditions of your contract. Mine was the 29.5 hour kind. This means Interac escapes financial responsibility regarding your social security/health insurance. Also, they try to hock insurance not recognized by the Japanese government. This means that once you get a full-time job, you *may* have to make back payments on all the months/years you were in Japan under Interac, officially uninsured. From the BOE’s perspective, if you are injured, YOU MAY BE UNINSURED, because your insurance is unofficial insurance. This scared the hell out of my BOE. BOEs want security for their ALTs. It also helped that I showed them a youtube video about the welfare status of ALTs, which even referenced Interac (Editors note: Another more recent report is found here – Erich). News stories are a big help, as they show that your plight is important to the country. Let it be important to your city.

Also, let a trusted superior at the BOE know how much you make. This includes the 4 pro-rated months and the small amount you pay in taxes. You pay little in taxes, but get nothing (see insurance above). Also, make sure they know YOU GET NO BONUSES (Editors note: This does depend upon the contract, but in this Interac ALT’s case, he got none. – Erich). Japanese people often get bonuses equal to a few months’ pay, and they will assume you get the same. Give a copy of your pay to the BOE. This way they can calculate how much it will cost to hire you directly versus through a middleman. They will see the money they’re wasting, paying Interac 5,000,000 yen but leaving you with 2.8 million of it.

Let schools and the BOE know that you are only paid for in-class and meeting time. This is wrong for 3 reasons:

1) The contract says you must prepare for all classes, while refusing to pay you for preparation time. They are saying “you must work, but we will not pay you.” This doesn’t make sense, especially when you are already a part-time employee working full-time hours. I recommend that you write in “preparation” on the bottom of your RSOWS and write a P for every hour of prep. They cannot stop you. They would be asking you to lie. PREPARATION IS WORK. (Editors note: Better yet, since preparation is work, just circle in every hour of the day equally, so that they cant argue and separate your class hours from your prep hours. – Erich)

2) Your contract tells you to stay at work between class hours, while not counting them as work time. Again, you’re being held captive. If you tell them you want to leave the school, because this is actually your free time that you’re wasting, they will tell you that you cannot leave. And if you make them cave, they will tell you that you must call them first if you want to leave.

3) They try to force you to report your whereabouts when you’re on unpaid “break” or even on weekends if you want to go to a school event. Let your BOE know what you want to, but cannot do, because Interac is keeping you prisoner. For example, Interac must give you approval before you go to a school festival on weekends, even though you’re doing so on your own free time. This was actually in an addendum to my contract.

Not only that, they are MISLEADING THE BOE about the contract they have with you. This is why you must let the BOE know about your contract. If your Japanese level is high enough, and you have the ability to make sense of obtusely written documents, you can translate important parts of the contract.

Remember, your BOE/school is no friend of Interac. What they like about Interac is YOU. Because you are a good employee, you give the BOE (or school) a higher opinion of Interac. And every day you work without the BOE knowing the truth is another win for Interac (and a loss for you as an individual). Every good class you have is a good Interac class. You want to change that, right? All you need is to show the BOE that you are valuable, but are being treated like trash. If you don’t complain, no one will know. They will assume that everything’s going all right. Until I complained directly (because Interac wouldn’t do anything for me), the BOE knew nothing.

The BOE didn’t know about my part-time status (despite their contract using the words “full-time” in both BOE and ALT contracts), insurance fraud, pro-rated months, nor did they know about the 11.25 month contract, which may or may not be renewed. I told them that my employment was not guaranteed by Interac, regardless of how good I was, or what good things the BOE said about me. I may have been extreme, but I told them that my contract was so scary that I would quit this job the first chance I got because of my pay, insurance, and short-term contracts. Although extreme, it was true.

To put the icing on the cake, though, think about what Interac is doing for you now. They are forcing you to fax them useless forms every month, being pissy about your vacation, sending you lesson plans that your school originally made… basically, getting paid to get in your and the BOE’s way. To get around this, your BOE, like mine, can do a little bit of work. They gave me a short, 1-2 page contract that ALL city employees get. And check this out: whereas Interac was calling me “full-time” and giving me part-time benefits (=NO benefits), the BOE calls me “part-time” but has enrolled me for full-time (social security, government healthcare) benefits.

I was a 29.5-hour (Interac) employee working from 8:30 – 4:15, and now I’m a 30-hour (BOE) employee working from 9:00 – 3:45. Do the math and you’ll find that hilarious.

If Interac is your only problem, don’t quit your job just yet. Your BOE needs to know what’s going on. But they need to know well before the renewal. They may be able to make a direct contract with you if you give them good warning in advance. My BOE told me that they would give me a direct contract if I was willing to work for a few years, and would help them find the next ALT. A small price to pay.

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