WHAT IS HEART CORPORATION?
Heart Corporation, of whom the POEA accuses of “illegal recruitment”, is a dispatch company that describes itself as being “practically identical” to the JET Programme.
Our company works with public school boards around the country to place native English speakers into private elementary, junior high, and high schools, working as Assistant Language Teachers (ALT). I’m guessing that you are likely familiar with the JET Program; what we do is practically identical.
– Heart Corporation [Source]
The reviews of the company are not kind, with people warning of “low pay, low salary, [and] no benefits“, “no pay during summer and winter vacation“, and “labor violations“, among a litany of other complaints and cautionary tales.
If you’ve been involved in the English education industry in Japan for any length of time, this is perhaps unlikely to surprise you.
However, having the Department of Labor and Employment of an entirely different country accuse a specific dispatch company in Japan of illegal practices and visa-fraud is certainly rare, if not unheard of.
WHAT IS THE PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT ADMINISTRATION?
Per Wikipedia, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is “an agency of the Government of the Philippines responsible for opening the benefits of the overseas employment program of the Philippines” and “the main government agency assigned to monitor and supervise recruitment agencies in the Philippines.”
The POEA was established to (attempt to) protect the welfare of Filipino workers (and their family members), requiring private companies (or recruitment companies) to first obtain a license from the POEA to then be able to legally offer direct recruitment to Filipinos within the Philippines.
According to the POEA, Heart Corporation does not have such a license.
WHAT DID THE PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT ADMINISTRATION SAY?
On July 5th, 2019, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), part of the Republic of the Philippines’s Department of Labor and Employment, issued the following news release:
BEWARE OF JAPAN SCHOOL ILLEGALLY RECRUITING FILIPINO TEACHERS
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) yesterday warned applicants of illegal recruitment of Filipino English instructors in Japan. The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Tokyo reported that a certain Heart English School, a language school in Japan has been directly recruiting Filipino assistant teachers without the proper authorization from the POEA.
The report said a Filipino contact has been facilitating the travel of the teachers as tourists or the conversion of student visas to teacher visas of those already in Japan.
POLO Tokyo said Heart English School has continued to defy its advice to recruit Filipino teachers through a licensed recruitment agency in the Philippines on the premise that it is a Japanese company and it has no obligation to abide by Philippine regulations.
This arrogant argument and unauthorized practice exposes the teachers to possible abuse.
The teachers who have no prior record of deployment at POEA now seek verification of their employment documents. Acting on their request, however, is tantamount to supporting unauthorized or irregular recruitment of Filipino workers.
The POEA reminds Filipinos seeking jobs in Japan to only transact with licensed recruitment agencies with job orders approved by the Administration.
The public is further advised to report immediately to POLO Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch at 721-0609 or 722-11-92 or email@example.com any unauthorized individual or groups offering similar schemes.
– Philippine Overseas Employment Administration [Source]
HOW DID HEART CORPORATION ANGER THE PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS EMPLOYMENT ADMINISTRATION?
As mentioned, Heart Corporation does not have a license from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (vis-a-vis the Department of Labor and Employment) to recruit Filipino workers from within the Phillipines.
As the news release from the POEA stated, proper authorization from the POEA is required before a company is permitted to recruit Filipino workers from the Philippines.
Instread, Heart Corporative have allegedly been recruiting Filipinos from within the Phillipines via an authoritzed contact within the country.
Per the Phillipine News Agency:
According to POLO-Tokyo, a Filipino contact whose identity is being withheld has been supposedly facilitating the travel of the teachers as tourists, or the conversion of student visas to teacher visas of those already in Japan.
The government agency noted that those who are looking to be employed overseas must avoid such illegal recruitment schemes and transact only with POEA accredited recruitment agencies with legitimate job offerings.
– Phillipine News Agency [Source]
To explain how this is supposed to work, let’s take a look at how a company such as Interac does things:
Interac cannot, in principle, recruit Filipinos directly from the Phillipines because Interac does not have a license from the POEA that would allow it to do so.
Instead, Interac uses the services of a company by the name of Chesham Recruitment Inc., a licensed recruitment company based in Makati City in the Philippines.
Here’s how Chesham describes its relationship with Interac:
In 2011, Chesham Recruitment Inc. made history, by becoming the first ever POEA licensed recruitment agency to send Philippine Assistant Language Teachers (ALT’s) to teach in the public school system in Japan.
The ALT’s are employed by Interac, Japan’s largest provider of ALT’s to the public school system.
These and all subsequently deployed Philippine ALT’s, are paid the very same salary as Western native English-speaking ALT’s.
Chesham Recruitment Inc. is very proud to be Interac’s exclusive recruitment agency in the Philippines and we were instrumental, with our colleagues in Interac, in opening up this fantastic opportunity for Philippine ALT’s. We have already placed hundreds of first-rate Philippine ALT’s in Japan and Interac has been very pleased with the high level of professionalism and competence which they have all demonstrated.
To date, all Philippine ALT’s who have successfully completed a Contract of Employment and who wished to stay on have been offered subsequent Contracts of Employment.
On the subject of Interac being unable to recruit Filipino’s directly, here’s how Chesham Recrutment Inc. itself explains things:
Please note that as a Philippine national, you cannot apply directly to Interac, as all Philippine ALT recruitment and processing is managed by Chesham Recruitment Inc., on Interac’s behalf.
– Chesham Recruitment Inc. [Source]
The POEA’s charge is that Heart Corporation skipped this process by having an unlicensed third-party “contact” within the Phillipines recruit individuals directly.
Such individuals would then be sent to Japan as tourists and would begin working for Heart Corporation immediately.
COULD THEY ANGER THE [JAPANESE] MINISTRY OF JUSTICE?
If you haven’t guessed it already, coming to Japan on a tourist visa with the intention to work is immigration fraud, which – surprise, surprise – is a crime.
The General Union has already written an entire article about Heart Corporation and their alleged practice of bringing people to Japan on tourist visas (with the intention to have them start work immediately while the company attempts to retroactively make that hiring seem legal).
You can read the full article here: Working Without A Visa? “Run. Don’t Walk. Run Away.”
Suffice to say, visa fraud isn’t just illegal for the company – visa-fraud is illegal for all involved, but the worker is likely to shoulder the worst of it.
The “all involved” part is key: it’s not just the company that’s breaking the law; the migrant workers are just as culpable for participating in immigration fraud as the company is for facilitating it, and that (potentially) puts the worker in a very, very bad position.
We speak at length about all the ways that things can go wrong for someone who is illegally working in Japan in the article linked above, so please refer to that article if you’d like to learn more about just how bad things can get (and how few options a worker has).
If you’d like to read more about the POEA, their “About Us” page can be found at the following address: http://poea.gov.ph/programs/programs&services.html
Additionally, the POEA’s main page at http://poea.gov.ph/ contains advisories, warnings, and information on a number of other issues as well, such as the use of “faked documents”, “illegal training fees” relating to the technical intern program, and more.