Fukuoka ALT Challenges Board of Education: GU Demands Collective Bargaining for Direct Employment

May 7, 2024

On 2 May, the General Union demanded collective bargaining with the Fukuoka City and Fukuoka City Board of Education to request direct employment of Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) who lost their jobs due to the bidding process for selecting ALT dispatch companies conducted by Fukuoka City, called the “ALT Dispatch Services Bidding Competition”.

Prior to this, on 5 March, we had submitted a formal request to the Fukuoka City Board of Education, seeking direct employment of ALTs, as 98 ALTs (53 in East Block and 45 in West Block) working in Fukuoka City’s elementary, junior high, and high schools were at risk of losing their jobs due to this bidding process.

The bidding results, announced on 22 March, confirmed our worst fears – all 45 in the East Block suddenly found themselves jobless. Some managed to bid farewell to the students and schools they had grown attached to, finding work in nearby schools or areas. However, the exact number of those who secured new positions and how they did so remains totally unclear. What is evident is that neither the dispatch companies that employed the ALTs nor the Fukuoka City Board of Education, the dispatch receiver, have a clear understanding of the situation. Moreover, no one is taking responsibility for this unfortunate turn of events.

Faced with this unacceptable situation, one ALT decided to take a stand.

Since 2010, he had been involved in the hiring and training of all ALTs in Fukuoka City as an employee of a dispatch company. From 2015, he worked as an ALT at a Fukuoka City high school, serving as the project leader for Fukuoka City’s “International Education Foundation Plan” and participating in regular meetings with the Fukuoka City Board of Education. Simultaneously, he developed English curricula for Fukuoka City’s elementary, junior high, and high schools and supervised English communication activities as a club activities support staff member. Despite a change in the dispatch company, he had been working at the same high school for nine years since 2015, earning the deep trust and respect of students, colleagues, vice principals, and principals alike. However, despite his extensive experience and contributions, a teacher found his job abruptly taken away by a “bidding process”. Shocked, angered, and disappointed by the sudden job loss, he decided to join the General Union and fight for reinstatement through direct employment rather than as a dispatch employee.

His pursuit of reinstatement through direct employment is well-founded.

Firstly, his extensive experience and dedication speak for themselves, and the students and colleagues at his former high school strongly desire his return.

Secondly, the labour dispatch law stipulates that if a dispatched worker wishes to continue working at the same dispatch receiver for more than three years, the dispatch receiver can directly employ them with the agreement of the dispatcher.

Lastly, in 2005, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology issued a notice titled “Regarding the Contract Format for Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs)” to Prefectural and Designated City Boards of Education, stating, “Please strive to enhance the foreign language instruction system by employing excellent ALTs as regular teachers.”

With the support of some Fukuoka City Councilors, we will continue to fight until our member is reinstated through direct employment, ensuring justice for him and his fellow educators facing similar challenges.