The first thing to note (after apologising for really stretching that “Schrödinger” reference) is the title of the employment contract:
This is an unusual place to start, but it provides context for the first clause that we’re going to look at.
In English, the contract is referred to as a “DISPATCH EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT”; in Japanese, the contract is defined as a “rodosha haken keiyaku-sho”, or a “dispatch employee written contract”.
This would seem to suggest that the contract used for this article was for a “haken rodosha” position (as opposed to a gyomu itaku position).
However, such contracts are usually made between a company and a client, not between a company and an employee. You can imagine a haken rodosha/gyomu itaku contract as an umbrella – the rules of which being what a dispatched employee works under.
This begs the question: which kind of contract was the employee working under in this situation? Haken Rodosha, or Gyomu Itaku?
Because of the risk of delving deeper into semantics and speculation, we’ll leave that question unanswered for now.
However, the important thing is to keep that “rodosha haken keiyaku-sho” title in mind as we move into the first clause of concern…
UNPAID WORKING HOURS AND THE SPLIT-SHIFT SYSTEM THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT
In its contract, Joytalk state that an ALTs working hours shall be as follows:
The working hours shall be as follows:
Monday through Friday 8:30am – 16:15pm (actual working time is 29.5 hours per week)
You’ll immediately notice that Joytalk takes the same “ambiguous working hours” approach that many other dubious companies follow.
Your starting time will be 8:30am, and you’ll work up until 16:15pm, but your actual working time will be 29.5 hours a week.
Hold on a minute. Allowing for one (unpaid) hour of lunch, if you start work at 8:30am and finish work at 4:15pm, that amounts to 7 hours and 15 minutes per day.
If we multiply that by five, we arrive at 36.25 hours per week, which is quite a lot more than the stated “29.5 hours”.
What’s going on here?
Well, it’s simple, and it’s a tactic that many dispatch companies use to keep the working ours below that mythical “30 hours per week” line so that they can get away with not enrolling an employee in shakai hoken (Employees’ Health and Pension Insurance; EHPI) without the Japan Pension Service punishing them for it: those aren’t your working hours at all.
For the most part, even though the contract states that “4:15pm” is the time that you will work to, you’re more likely to be working until the end of the 6th period, which we’ll assume to be 3:30pm.
8:30am to 3:30pm is six hours of work per day (again, counting one unpaid hour of lunch); six hours per day times five days a week is 30 hours per week.
That’s still thirty minutes beyond the “29.5 hours per week” limit that they invoke, though. Goodness! That’s certainly a problem for a company that REALLY doesn’t want to contribute to your health care! Whatever could they do about it?
The solution to THAT conundrum is simple, too: they just don’t count the time BETWEEN lessons as working hours.
You see, this is all part of the mathematical gymnastics and paperwork fudging that companies do so that they can exploit you, the worker, in order to make a profit at your expense.
You’re not actually working from 8:30am until 3:30pm; you’re working under an exploitative split-shift system that goes more like this:
50 minutes -> 10 minute break -> 50 minutes -> 10 minutes break -> 50 minutes -> 10 minute break -> 50 minutes -> 60 minute break -> 50 minutes -> 10 minute break -> 50 minutes
By using such a deceitful method of calculating your actual working time (a method that they never told you about in any way, shape, or form), they manage to fudge the numbers in such a way that they’re able to shave 40 minutes of working time off of your day, each day.
Those 40 minutes per day add up to 3 hours and 20 minutes per week – time which you’re essentially being forced to volunteer, even though you’re actually working – which manages to bring that 30 hours down to 26 hours and 40 minutes of working time per week.
Make no mistake, though: that time between lessons is NOT the “free time” that they pretend it is. During that time between class, are you free to do whatever you want? Of course not. You’re moving from classroom to classroom, preparing worksheets, carrying materials around, meeting students, talking about lessons, and much more – all of which is, under Japanese law, work.
That 3 hours and 20 minutes is time that your company is cheating you out of. If you work at an elementary school and you’re scheduled to eat lunch with students, you can go ahead and add another two and a half hours to that count.
So, not only are you being manipulated into essentially working for free, your company is doing so in order to fudge the hours so that they can keep you our of shakai hoken in order to keep the contribution(s) money for themselves.
The biggest question (in regards to this contract) is why Joytalk are going through all this trouble to begin with.
HAKEN RODOSHA AND SHAKAI HOKEN
Do you remember that we asked you to keep the “rodosha haken keiyaku-sho” title of the employment contract in mind as we delved deeper into the particulars of the Joytalk contract?
Here’s why it matters:
The exploitative split-shift system that we just described is used in order to keep people out of the shakai hoken system when the contract between a company and a client is of the ignominious “gyomu itaku” service-contract kind.
When such contracts (which are illegal in schools) are used, the client has no legal obligation to ensure that the dispatching company is fulfilling its own legal obligation to enrol its employee(s) in shakai hoken.
Thus, when gyomu itaku is used, the client is able to turn a blind eye, and the offending company is able to exploit the heck out of their employees for the sake of their bottom line.
That’s one of the main reasons why gyomu itaku contracts are used, even though they’re illegal.
However, when the contract between a company and a client is of the “haken rodosha” type, the split-shift tactic of not counting time between lessons (etc) in order to keep the working hours below that “30 hour” guideline no longer apply.
When haken rodosha is used, the client – in this case, the Board of Education – has a legal obligation to make sure that employee that has been dispatched to work for them (instead of to provide a service to them) is enrolled in shakai hoken.
The difference is like this:
Direct Employment: the Board of Education is your direct employer.
Haken Rodosha: you work for a private company, but the Board of Education (via proxy) directs you on a day-to-day basis. (Essentially, you have two bosses.)
Gyomu Itaku: you work for a private company, but the schools of a Board of Education are your place of work. You are not permitted to receive any direction from the Board of Education or any of its proxies. You work for the private company and the private company alone.
This might not be anything new to you, but the nuances can be a little complicated, so a refresher is never a bad thing to include.
HAKEN RODOSHA WITHOUT THE SHAKAI HOKEN
At this point, you’ve probably figured out why this aspect of the Joytalk contract is worth going into detail over:
The contract is (supposedly) a “haken rodosha” contract. However, in spite of it being a “haken rodosha” contract, Joytalk are still using the infamous “29.5 hour” lie to keep keep their ALTs out of shakai hoken in order to keep the money that they would have otherwise had to contribute to their employees for themselves.
To make matters worse, the Boards of Education that the Joytalk ALTs have been dispatched to as “haken rodosha” are either being lied to by Joytalk (i.e. Joytalk are telling Boards of Education that Joytalk ALTs are enrolled in shakai hoken, even though they’re not), OR the Boards of Education in question are complicit in breaking the law by deliberately ignoring their obligation to ensure that the dispatched employees who are working for them have adequate health and pension insurance.
One has to wonder how the Boards of Education would benefit from being a conspirator in this illegal practice, though.
Even though a Board of Education has a duty to make sure that the dispatched ALT is properly enrolled in shakai hoken, it is still the private company which must contribute to that enrolment. The Board of Education gains nothing by also breaking the law except, perhaps, maintaining a business relationship with a company that is willing to grant them all of the benefits of using haken rodosha (such as the ability to team-teach and receive directions from Japanese teachers) while cheating the ALT out of the perks that such a contract would grant them.
In this way, Joytalk and Boards of Education are both able to have their cake AND eat it, all at the expense of the person who is actually doing the work.
Alternatively, it could be that these Boards of Education are unknowing parties in what is, without a doubt, an illegal and exploitative practice.
In any case, this is just speculation; all that we can say for certain is that the contract clearly claims that it is a “rodosha haken” contract, but Joytalk is using the “29.5 hour” lie and not enrolling its ALTs in shakai hoken.
This apparent contradiction is certainly cause enough for concern, however.
BUT WAIT; THERE’S MORE…
Discussions about shakai hoken are always going to become somewhat lengthy due to how complicated the situation can be.
Be that as it may, it remains a serious situation that is always worth talking about, and the General Union (as you know, because you love labor issues) works tirelessly to push back against the lies and myths and exploitation that surround this issue – an issue which, without a doubt, lies at the very heart of most of the problems that exist within the English-teaching industry in Japan.
However, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to talk about the other issues that exist within the Joytalk contract.
Don’t worry, though; we’ll just talk about those another time…