NOVA, "Freelancers", and the Coronavirus

no vaThe epidemic is throwing into sharp relief some of tricks used by companies; for what is merely anti-social and exploitative in normal times is potentially deadly in an epidemic.

Employers have long used spurious "freelance" contracts in an attempt to evade labour laws and obligations to enroll people in the pension and health insurance.

One of those companies is NOVA.

As we have reported previously, NOVA are presently telling teachers to work or stay at home without pay, even though language conversation classes are hardly an essential service.

The General Union has argued that these “contractors” are in reality workers - and the Nagoya District Court agrees with us.

(See: Union Wins At Nagoya District Court: Nova's "Independent Contractors" Actually Employees)

A judgement in a case filed against NOVA by six general union members in 2016 was handed down on September 24th (2019), ruling that all of the 6 "independent contractors" were actually employees under the Labor Standards Act. 

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At the very well attended General Union meeting for Nova teachers held on April 19th, about half of those attending were on these spurious "freelance" contracts.

These workers are covered by the trade union law and have the right to join a union and enjoy the legal protections of this law, although the situation is not clear with regard to the Labour Standards Law.

While we have won our case in Nagoya, the company have appealed the decision, and Labour Standards Offices can be reluctant to take action.

Some of the effects of this were clear at the meeting.

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Firstly, the company evades its responsibility to enroll in social insurance.

Instructors can (and, actually, have) a legal responsibility to enroll themselves on the Kokumin Hoken system, designed for the self-employed.

The problem is that, without an employer contribution, it is expensive and the benefits not as good. 

At our meeting on April 19th, at least some of the "freelancers" did not have any health insurance at all.

While the Labour Standards Law gives workers the right to receive 60% of their pay in a furlough/layoff, "freelancers" have no such right to pay.

Likewise, a company cannot get the employment adjustment subsidy from the government for paying workers while on furlough for its freelancers.

In addition, the freelancers are not entitled to the annual paid leave guaranteed by the Labour Standards Law.

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The most shocking thing the came out in the meeting was the company’s fine system for the "freelancers". 

Namely: if a freelancer misses a class because they chose to prioritize their health, they not only do not get paid for the class, but they also have to pay a fine to the company!

In the case of some instructors, this actually means that very soon the fines will be greater than any earnings, and the company will be asking the teacher to pay them money.

They’ll be paying NOVA for the privilege of not working.

Under the Labour Standards Law fines are capped at 10% of daily pay.

The result of the company's policies is that their employees have a choice between staying at home without pay and traveling to work, often across prefectural boundaries, flouting "stay at home" requests for non-essential workers.

The company’s ruthless pursuit of profit is a threat to the lives and health of not only their own employees, but the public as a whole.

They need to be stopped.


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