Stop outsourcing public school ALT jobs

If we wish to see improved job security and wages for Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) working at public schools, unions have no choice but to take on the public boards of education.

Our demands are for the end of subcontracting and dispatch and for the direct hire of all ALTs. However, with outsourcing ravaging other industries, some boards of education have allowed themselves be misled by dishonest companies into continuing to contract out jobs and avoiding their responsibilities. This violates not only the Dispatch Law and the Employment Security Law, but also the School Education Law, which gives boards of education, school principals, and licensed teachers the authority and responsibility to control lessons. Many dispatchers continue to take advantage of education boards’ ignorance of the law and the failure of government ministries to act. The General Union, NUGW Tokyo South, and other National Union of General Workers unions have taken action: conducting a survey of school boards this autumn, releasing a list of companies and boards that engage in illegal subcontracting, and requesting a strong response from both the education and labour ministries. In response, on August 21, 2009, the education ministry sent a message in the form of a questionnaire addressed to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labour to clarify the roles of teachers and ALTs, the definition of “control” and on whether it was illegal to subcontract team-teachers. On 28 August the labour ministry responded. “Although it is labelled as subcontracting, the dispatching company does NOT give directions on starting and finishing times or on how to execute the tasks. It is the school boards, schools, and licensed teachers in charge who assist with carrying out lessons and setting the teaching goals”. Therefore, “a subcontracting type of contract is impossible.” On that same day the Education Ministry sent an urgent notice to all prefectural boards of education across Japan to the effect that “as long as the classroom teacher or subject teacher is the one giving direction to the ALTs and consulting with them on the teaching of lessons, outsourcing contracts may not be made. Boards of education should check the contents of their current contracts and take appropriate measures such as using the JET program, hiring teachers directly at the prefecture or city level, or making legitimate dispatch contracts.” Stop playing games with jobs and education! Once again the subcontracting of ALT jobs has been found to be illegal. But some companies, plotting their own survival, are shifting to dispatch—even though many lack the required license to do so. The companies’ aim in disguising their business as subcontracting, rather than dispatch, was to escape these restrictions imposed by the Dispatch Law. However, this subcontracting has now been found to be illegal, their response has been to move to illegal haken contracts. For example, they set three months of each year as a blank (“cooling-off”) period in order to pretend that the dispatch contract is not continuing and therefore not constrained by the one year limit. Since teachers are left without pay for these three months, it is becoming more difficult to find teachers willing to accept this. Teachers often just don’t come back at the end of the three month period. Now is the time for ALTs to stand up and demand direct hire jobs with job security, decent wages, and health, pension, and unemployment insurance. The tide is now on your side but boards of education will not simply change over night. It will take a strong union to make sure that the benefits owed to ALTs are won. Contact the union and start improving your life.

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