Joytalk: A Cautionary Tale

"Joytalk" has become known to the General Union as a name that usually precedes a story of woe soon to follow. Indeed, whenever we see the word "joy" and "talk" together in the same sentence, it's usually a sign that someone is having a bad time.

We've mentioned them before in regards to contracts that forbid resignation, privacy concerns, forcing teachers to brave typhoons, and serious allegations of breaking immigration law.

Today, we have yet another cautionary tale which involves more accusations of immigration law shenanigans.

In fact, the story is so similar to the previous one that, at first, we actually thought it was the same person as the previous writer(!).

The author of the e-mail that was sent to us has given us permission to republish it providing that we do so without naming sources.

Some details have been edited for privacy and clarity.

***

Here is what happened last year in April of 2016.

A recruiter from a dispatch company called Joytalk hired me with one week of notice before the ALT position started in [redacted].

He told me that it was legal for me to come and start working on a tourist visa.

The recruiter of the company was not upfront about the salary, but told me that the salary would be enough to support me in Japan.

However, once I arrived, the cost of living (i.e. price level of things needed for basic subsistence) was approximately the same as where I had come from in [city].

He also had me come without signing a contract.

He gave me less than a weeks notice to leave [country].

They also said to me: "Do you want us to help you find housing?"

Having never been to Japan before, I thought he meant something like once I'd arrived [in Japan], they'd help me find an apartment to live in.

So, like I said, I arrived [in Japan], and I found out about the high cost of living. Then I discovered that they had actually already rented an apartment for me in advance - an expensive one (relative to my less than 200,000 yen salary on normal months).

The apartment that they had just decided to get without telling me cost 55,000 yen a month, plus many other fees [editor's note: such as key money, insurance, realtor commission, etc].

Furthermore, as soon as I arrived, they told me that the work hours were approximately 10 hours a day (which I later figured out would equate to less than $10 an hour).

After [the Joytalk recruiter] told me the situation and I heard the hours that would be associated with the pay, I decided that I would have to refuse to sign the contract because - with the apartment they had chosen and the city's cost of living - if I stayed, I would be living in relative poverty.

In summary, I had arrived [in Japan] literally 3-4 days before the teaching position started because [the Joytalk recruiter] said it would be okay and - after having all these negative things thrown at me - I still had not and would not sign the contract.

After I told them that I could not take the job, they rushed over and tried bullying me to stay after they knew that they could not convince me to sign the contract.

They then told me to "go to the nearest ATM, now" because I had to pay every fee associated with the apartment rental and cancellation before I went back to [native country].

I knew that I couldn't sign the contract and take the job because what they were offering (in regards to wage, hours associated with wages, and offering no financial assistance) was akin to indentured servitude, and being so I would never be able a month to ever have enough to live and pay on student loans.

In addition, it doesn't seem right to have to pay for an apartment that they chose without my knowledge or consent.

After all of this, they had the audacity to say that I had "I harmed the company".

This seems like a crazy thing to say because they were the ones who were trying to hire an employee with only a week of notice, telling half-truths to get an employee to come to Japan to fill a position on a hope and a prayer to cover themselves for a contract they made hastily with the [Board of Education] because they didn't have enough foresight to not wait until the week before the semester started to fill the last teaching position.


***

This isn't the first time that we've heard about Joytalk's habit of renting apartments for an ALT without the ALT's knowledge or consent and then just expecting them to pay for it.

It's also not the first time that we've heard such a scenario occurring because "do you want us to help you?" actually means "we will go out and rent an apartment as a company apartment and then deduct the fees from your salary" without a housing contract ever existing between the company and the employee.

In any case, working in Japan without the permission of the Immigration Bureau of Japan is a terrible idea, and one that has a good chance of getting you arrested and/or deported.

You absolutely cannot work in Japan while on a tourist visa. This is a crime.

In addition, it's also never a good idea to get into the kind of rental situation that the writer of the e-mail describes (although, in this case, it's more that the company dropped the situation on him and demanded that he pay for it).

If a company asks you if you'd like them to help you find an apartment, find out exactly what they mean by that. Unless you do want them to sub-lease an apartment to you (which may, in and of itself, be illegal) - make sure that you specify in no uncertain terms what shape and form you want any such assistance to be.

Do not let them dictate where you will live without your prior consent.

Finally, should you enter into some kind of housing agreement with a company, such a housing contract must be entirely separate from your employment contract, and must be agreed upon by both parties in the same way.

A company cannot just throw an apartment at you without your permission and demand that you pay for it - especially if no contract between you and the company exists.

In such a situation, you would be well within your legal right to not pay anything at all - even if you decide to stay at that location (which we don't recommend, but it's your decision to make).

As for the allegations of Joytalk's various immigration wrongdoings (i.e. "it's legal for you to come and start working on a tourist visa")...

Well, we'll let you make up your own mind on that one.

***

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