The latest development in the dirty undertaking of dispatch teaching:
A labor union of foreign workers requested Monday that the Aichi prefectural board of education address the concerns of English-language instructors at public schools who they say are working under illegal contracts.
The General Union, based in the city of Osaka, said an investigation it conducted last month and communications with municipal boards of education show that foreign teaching assistants in 16 school districts in the prefecture are contracted by private language schools or other agents rather than the school boards themselves.
The union charges that by going through agencies, the school boards are "avoiding the obligation of hiring them directly that comes after a certain period of (temporary) employment has elapsed."
It's all slowly coming to a head. Nothing illustrates the situation better than this 2005 letter from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) acknowledging that gyomu itaku (outsourcing contracts) are illegal.
This notice was sent to all prefectural BOEs, and advises that they give preference to JETs, direct hires, and legal dispatch jobs over gyomu itaku with private dispatch companies. It also recommends that skilled ALTs be made permanent employees （正社員）.
Paragraph 3 in the appendix also contains some noteworthy items. It notes that dispatch contracts can only be made with ministry-approved dispatch companies and that BOEs should make sure they are dealing with approved companies before entering into a contract. It also notes that dispatch contracts are valid for 3 years whereupon the ALT must be made a permanent employee.
This letter is the kind of thing that should lay the foundation for ALT positions to be decent jobs, but instead, what we have is a terrible triangle.
BOEs: Lazy and cheap. They want ALTs in classrooms but don't want any of the hassles that come with having to manage foreigners. They know that dispatch companies can be unscrupulous but use them anyway. They like the steady supply of cheap instructors but aren't smart enough to figure out why the teacher turnover is so high.
MEXT: The letter shows that they are aware of illegal hiring practices, but they aren't doing anything beyond issuing guidance. This particular letter was written in 2005, and clearly nothing has been done in the past 4 years. Recall the fate of Samantha, covered by NHK in 2007. Fast forward to the present, and we still have the same abuses happening to ALTs like Robert and Eric.
ALTs: For some unknown reason, despite the information one can find on the internet about dispatch companies and teaching in Japan, teachers still insist on being taken advantage of by their employers. They work for low pay and no benefits because they'd rather not give up on their dream/fantasy/plan of living in Japan.
Where is the breaking point? There is absolutely no justification to put up with such terrible working conditions. At what point does the whole mess collapse under the weight of its own bullshit? Who takes the first step in breaking the triangle? Do the BOEs smarten up? Does MEXT do something beyond issuing memos? Do ALTs quit in droves or strike for better working conditions?