Our campaign to improve working conditions at Interac is important not just for ALTs , but for students and Japan’s education system. In addition, this has now become a campaign to defend our right to strike at Interac.
It is that time of year again! Time for the mad scramble of March when good teachers everywhere are worried if their contracts are going to be renewed or not, otherwise known as the “ALT Shuffle”. Two things you should be sure NOT to do:
1) Do NOT let your employer force you to sign resignation papers! You do not need to sign any such thing. If they do not have work for you, they should give you dismissal papers so that you can claim your unemployment benefits until you find your next job.
2) Do NOT let your employer threaten you into leaving your apartment. It does not matter whether your employer is your guarantor or not, you can pay your landlord directly. Tenant’s rights are strong in Japan, but they are non-existant if you do not claim them.
If you find yourself facing either of these situations, call your local union representative to report the harassment.
If you are not in a union, and would like to fight against these kinds of ill treatment, join a union and help improve the working conditions of Japan.
If Interac tries to pressure you into signing up for Kokumin Kenko Hoken, don’t do it! Kokumin Kenko Hoken is for people that are self-employed or unemployed. If you sign up for Kokumin Kenko Hoken, you may be forced to back enroll into the system up to the time that you started working in Japan (meaning you will have to pay your monthly dues up to the maximum limit of two years).
Instead, you should enroll into Shakai Hoken, because Interac will be forced to pay their half. If there is any back enrollment it will be covered by the company, not by you. You are all eligible for this. The only reason Interac tells you otherwise is because they don’t want to pay their portion of the money.
You can do this on your own, or you can join the “Interac union” (aka members of the Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union Tozen ALTs) and we can force them to pay up together in solidarity. The Tokyo General Union has a lot of experience in forcing companies to enroll their employees into Shakai Hoken so we can get you enrolled with much less effort on you part.
An open letter to the management of Interac (as well as Maxceed and Selnate)
November 5th, 2009
To whom it may concern (including Kevin Salthouse and Denis Cusack),
I am an executive of the ALT branch of Tokyo Nambu’s Foreign Workers Caucus. I worked for Interac from September of 2005 until February 2008, under the Osaka branch.
I am writing to clear up some misconceptions about health insurance in Japan that were evident in a couple of PDFs that were circulated from management at the beginning of October 2009.
The two PDFs in question are the “FAQ – Insurance System in Japan” and the one titled “Social Insurance Letter” dated October 1st, 2009. In these PDFs, you tell your ALTs that they are not eligible for Shakai Hoken if they work less than 29.5 hours.
This is not true.
You also tell them that the only alternative is to sign up for Kokumin Kenko Hoken and that they may have to pay up to two years of back enrollment.
The problem is that, since they are eligible for Shakai Hoken, it is the company that will have to pay the back enrollment (up to two years) into Shakai Hoken, after which the employee can be billed for their half of enrollment fees.
Let me give you some background information on how I know this.
Last year when I was in the Osaka based General Union, we received an email from an Interac ALT who was rather upset because she had been fired for being pregnant. Martina (name changed) was set to have her contract renewed with her school where she was loved by her students and teachers. Her contract had already been promised to her verbally and her schools and students were looking forward to her return. Then, people in the Yokohama office found out something that they viewed as a major inconvenience to their business, Martina was pregnant and would be giving birth during the middle of the school year.
They told her that in light of her condition, it would be too much trouble for them to find a replacement in the middle of the school term, and had decided to go with someone else who was less…. pregnant.
An article from July that concerns every foreigner working in Japan.
Are you enrolled in Shakai Hoken or did Interac tell you you weren’t eligible? Are you going to have to pay up to two years of back pay into the system next year because Interac/Maxceed did not register you into the system when you started working for them?
Let’s hope not.
By JENNY UECHI
Enrollment in Japan’s health insurance program tied to visa renewal from 2010
By JENNY UECHI
In your wallet or somewhere at home, do you have a blue or pink card showing that you are enrolled in one of Japan’s national health and pension programs? If not, and if you are thinking of extending your stay here, you may want to think about a recent revision to visa requirements for foreign residents. The changes, which the Justice Ministry says were made in order to “smooth out the administrative process,” may have major consequences for foreign residents and their future in Japan.
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”.
(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.
Recently in the news, an NihonTerebi (Channel 4 in the Tokyo area) story focused on trials that a lot of ALTs face, focusing on the fact that not only are these creating a less than optimal working enviornment for foreign teachers but also that many of the contracts are Illegal.
The reporters that researched the story surveyed the greater Tokyo/Kanto area to see which Boards of Education (BOEs) were using dispatch contracts that are considered legal, and which BOEs were using illegal contracts. A graphic supplied during the report showed that a large swath of the Tokyo area was highlighted in red, the color used to indicate a BOE that is currently using an illegal contract.
Continue reading to see the videos:
An article from January, 2008 about the fact that Interac ALTs do not get all of what they are entitled to by law.
THIS FOREIGN LAND
Assistant language teachers in trying times
By KANAKO TAKAHARA
Last of four parts
In November, Samantha Bouton, an assistant language teacher working at a public elementary school in the rural town of Shibayama, Chiba Prefecture, had a fever of 38.5 degrees and was diagnosed as suffering bronchitis.
Because of her illness, Bouton, a 25-year-old U.S. native from Oregon who has been teaching in Japan’s public schools since 2004, had to take leave for two weeks.
But her employer, Interac, a temp staff dispatch agency and leading provider of ALTs in Japan, told her she had already used up her seven days of annual paid leave — less than the 12 days she is entitled to under labor law — to cover the days she was sick.
This is an archived post from the old General Union Interac Branch website, written by an undeclared union member (thus the nickname rather than the name):
Hi all. Corrector here.
Many of you may have seen this before through the original link on Let’s Japan earlier this year, but I wanted to highlight the story here as well. This report aired on NHK on June 30th, 2007. The first part covers a bit of NOVA (old NOVA that is, not neo/G.Communications/NOVA), and then the second part covers the hardships of some awesome people working as teachers in Chiba under the strangling gauntlet of Interac…
If anyone wants to volunteer to write an English transcript for those who may need/want it, feel free to send it my way and I will post it. Otherwise, you will either have to wait until I have the time, or just visit the aforementioned Let’s Japan entry to get all the details.
Kudos to Shawn for running a great blog/forum.
These videos originally posted and donated to us by several members who are in the video (which should give us plenty of rebroadcasting rights).
We will be posting more surveys, information and entertaining diatribe shortly so stay tuned…