This marks the beginning of a somewhat unusual corporate strategy, and the timing of it is remarkable in how closely linked to the revisions to the Worker’s Dispatch Law that the campaign seems to be.
Although the rules of gyōmu itaku are well known (with teachers not being allowed to receive ANY direction from their school or from Japanese Teachers), these have been treated more like “guidelines” than actual “rules”, and how those rules have been applied in public schools has always seemingly followed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of policy.
Indeed, many teachers – Japanese and foreign alike – aren’t informed about what the rules even are, and all parties seem to have had a habit of turning a blind eye towards such things in an effort to maintain stable relationship between dispatch companies, Boards of Education, and the teachers who work under the threat of such restrictions on a day-to-day basis.
However, that attitude seems to have changed.
The General Union has learned that Interac’s Head Office has been asking various regional branches to conduct surveys to determine where, and by whom, the rules of the gyōmu itaku are being broken, and then punishing teachers who are found to either be ignorant of them, or ignoring them entirely.
An e-mail sent by the Branch Manager of Interac’s Osaka Branch Office revealed the following:
“I wanted to let you know that the Tokyo head office will be conducting a survey, and you will likely be selected. If selected, the survey will test your understanding of the rules for “gyōmu itaku”.”
“If your responses show a lack of understanding of the rules, then additional weekend training will likely need to be done, to review Itaku rules in greater detail. In preparation for the survey, we thought to give you a quick review.”
The e-mail then went on to “coach” teachers in how to answer the survey, including such points as:
“All work instructions should come from Interac, not the school: so if the school were to order you to do something directly, you should answer, “I would love to, but I need to check with Interac,” then check with us to get the assignment.”
“Your portion of class time should be taught by you as the main instructor, the JTE can only assist with demonstrations, and only if the SLP has the check-box “実演” Jitsuen checked.”
In addition, the General Union has also been made aware of surveys being conducted at other branches, documents about “understanding the rules of gyōmu itaku” being used in “ongoing training” sessions (with teachers being banned from taking any documents with them, and being forced to sign the document to indicate their understanding of “the rules”), and instances of Interac representatives directly lecturing Japanese school teachers about how team-teaching with an ALT is prohibited, and how teachers need to clearly demonstrate how the lesson time is being split between them and the ALT, among other things.
If the sudden pressure for teachers to adhere to the rules of gyōmu itaku wasn’t already egregious in and of itself, the fact that Interac feels that it can admonish Japanese public school teachers about those restrictions is equally outrageous – especially when one considers that such gyōmu itaku contracts and rules have no place in public schools at all.
The basis of the use of gyōmu itaku contracts being illegal (in public schools) is well documented, and the General Union has campaigned against gyōmu itaku contracts for as long as the General Union has existed.
By their very nature, these kinds of contracts are as exploitative as they are impractical, taking advantage of teachers both foreign and Japanese alike in order to make money for the dispatch company using them, while saving money for the Board of Education at the other end of the deal.
More importantly, the legality (or lack thereof) of the use of gyōmu itaku contracts in public schools is not merely an interpretation or opinion – it is an acknowledged fact.
On February 17th, 2005, the Ministry of Education sent a memo to all Boards of Education, advising that the use of gyōmu itaku contracts in schools was illegal and violated the School Education Law. To quote from alt.150m.com:
“…through union pressure from the National Union of General Workers Tokyo South and the General Union, the Ministry of Education came out to say that private companies using gyōmu itaku contracts are violating School Education Law. It is stated that the principal must be in charge of the ALT. However, the Ministry says that under gyōmu itaku contracts, the company is actually in charge.
This advisement was sent to all prefectural boards of education by the Ministry of Education where they advise that JET Programme jobs, direct board of education jobs, and legal dispatch jobs, be favoured over gyōmu itaku jobs with private dispatch companies. They also note, though, that legal dispatch jobs are only valid for 3 years whereupon the job must then be made a permanent position as per Dispatch Law.”
Images of this memo (in Japanese) can be found at: http://alt.150m.com/
It is Clause 37 of the School Education Law that clearly states that a school’s principal is in charge of ALL education and the teachers within their school – not a dispatch company.
On August 28th, 2009, the Ministry of Education again sent a notice to all nation-wide Boards of Education reiterating that the use of gyōmu itaku contracts in schools was illegal. In addition, the noticed defined the role of an ALT in regards to teach teaching and their relationship with Japanese teachers of English (JTE), and included documents from the Ministry of Health and Education asking about the legality of subcontracted ALTs.
Images of these documents (in Japanese) can be found at: http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/alt/#lll
In addition to how gyōmu itaku contracts violate the School Education Law, how gyōmu itaku contracts are being used by dispatch companies is equally immoral, if not outright illegal, too.
gyōmu itaku are intended to be short-term contracts for temporary positions. For example, if you need an I.T. specialist to set up a network in your new office, you might opt to use a gyōmu itaku contract for that duration. If you are building a new apartment building, you might use a gyōmu itaku contract to hire an electrician to wire everything up for you.
gyōmu itaku are not intended to be used as one-year, non-renewable contracts for the same job, year after year. This is not a temporary position. This is not a short-term duration. This is exploitation (not just in the education sector, but all across Japan). There are other types of contracts for that situation. Gyōmu itaku is not one of them.
Suffice to say, the use of gyōmu itaku in schools was illegal in 2005, illegal in 2009, and is still illegal in 2015.
That Interac has begun to firmly assert the rules of gyōmu itaku contracts upon both foreign and Japanese teachers is, in this regard, very curious indeed.
The legality of these contracts has, after all, been a contentious point for a very long time, so why would Interac wish to overly draw attention to it once again?
There are dozens of reasons why, and we could speculate upon them all. However, the main suspicion is that, now that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has successfully made revisions to the Worker’s Dispatch Law in regards to the use of haken rōdōsha (dispatch employee) contracts, Interac are seeking to double-down on asserting gyōmu itaku rules as a last-ditch attempt from having to switch from gyōmu itaku to haken rōdōsha come April, 2016, and thus avoid having to enrol people into the Shakai Hoken (Employee’s Health Insurance) program.
One might also surmise that this action is an attempt to still prevent people from seeking Direct Hire now that the Dispatch Law requires a company to directly ask a client if they want to directly hire the dispatched haken rōdōsha employee after three years (previously, the haken rōdōsha employee HAD to be directly hired, but many companies and Boards of Education ignored this law).
Whatever the case, Interac cannot have its cake and eat it.
It cannot seek to enforce gyōmu itaku rules upon teachers and schools without drawing attention to the illegal use of that very same contract.
It will be interesting to see how Interac (and other dispatch companies) approach the revisions to the Dispatch Law in the near future, and how they will attempt to squirm out of adhering to the revised laws and practices required of them without finding themselves embroiled in legal trouble as a result.
It will also be interesting to see how school teachers and Boards of Education will react to these assertions.
With the rules of gyōmu itaku being utterly unworkable in a classroom environment, Interac risks facing a backlash once teachers are scolded for such trivial things as discussing lessons, asking an ALT to read from a textbook, or even talking about teaching ideas, simply because the Japanese teacher did not document everything in detail for submission to the company first. If simple communication is to be punished, we would not expect qualified teachers to just happily accept it at face value.
There is, perhaps, a form of irony to be found from Interac scolding teachers for not knowing “the rules”, when they themselves are wilfully ignorant of a greater set of “rules” known as “The Laws of Japan”.
However, if you don’t find this kind of irony to be very amusing, why not help us send a message to Interac and other dispatch companies that they are not above the law just because it is inconvenient for their profit margins.
For more information about the issues surrounding gyōmu itaku contracts, please visit the following sources:
‣ “A Terrible Triangle” (Let’s Japan)
‣ “Dodgy Dispatch” (Japan Times)
‣ “Japanese Firms Have Much To Lose In Battles Over Bogus Outsourcing” (Japan Times)
‣ “The ALT Scam” (Fukuoka General Union)
If you’re concerned about this shift in attitude, or if you want to learn more about how gyōmu itaku contracts both exploit and discriminate against foreign teachers, contact the General Union at:
Do you have further information about gyōmu itaku rules that you’d like to share, or have you found yourself subject to the restrictions that these contracts cause? Let us know about your experiences on our official Facebook page at: