Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Michael Collison, who tells his tale of an employer, Interac, who apparently would not give him a break even when there was a death in the family. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
April 13, 2009
I have worked for Interac for 3 years 2006 04 to 2009 03. Some bumps along the way but usually not my fault. Anyway, my wife became pregnant with our second child in October 2008, great ! I also got a Letter of Recommendation from Interac praising my teaching work and thanking me December 2008 (attached).
About 3 months later on February the 11th 2009, during the night, my wife had some water leak, which isn’t uncommon. There are lots of fluid leaks during pregnancy. She called the hospital and was told to come for her prebooked appointment as scheduled on February 17th 2009. When she went I kept my phone with me during the lesson at Nakahara Junior High School in Hiratsuka, my main school, hoping everything would be fine. I was interviewing first year kids 1 to 1, there were only 3 kids left to interview and it was 15 minutes before the end of my last lesson of the day (each interview took 2 1/2 mins).
The phone rang !!
I’ve never had a phone call during a lesson before, but for my wife and unborn child I’m going to take the call. I did and my wife was heartbroken and in tears. She told me we had lost the baby.
I told her I was in a lesson and that I would come to her. I hung up the phone, apologised to the student telling him it was very important, and then finished his interview. After that I went to the classroom that the Japanese teacher was in and quickly explained that I had to go to the hospital because of my wife and unborn child. I went to the teachers room and explained everything I knew to a very nice third grade English teacher who translated it all into Japanese for the vice principal. They understood my reason for leaving.
So I ran to catch a bus, then a train, then ran to the hospital.
Once there I found out that the baby was still alive but had no water surrounding it. That’s when the hardest 3 weeks of my life started, (and I’ve had some hard times believe me) the baby survived that long.
The doctors wanted us to abort ASAP, that very day.
So that afternoon and night I was fighting a mental battle against doctors and nurses who were all saying that we should abort ASAP because the baby was doomed.
I went home as late as I could and started researching ‘PPROM’ (Premature Prenatal Rupture of Membranes) which is what this problem is called. I found many many cases in which the infant survived, and techniques to try.
Due to the stress of all this I went to work the next day, as my wife wished, and got the days mixed up, thinking it was Wednesday when it was Thursday, thus turning up an hour later than I should have. I missed 1 lesson but did the lesson in my free time. I also interviewed the 3 students I had missed, when I rushed off to the hospital, again in my free time.
That morning February 18th 2009 at aprox 8:30am, I recieved a call from Interac, a Japanese male from the Yokohama branch, speaking in English, asking why I had left school early the day before. I explained that there had been a medical emergency and that my wife was in the hospital and that we could be losing the baby. He told me that if I have any more medical emergencies to call Interac 1 week before the emergency to let them know in advance. He also said he would take a 1/2 day’s paid holiday because I left early.
Later at aprox 9:30am I recieved another call from Interac, a Japanese female from the Yokohama branch, again speaking in English, asking why I was late for work, again I explained the situation to a 2nd person. Interac took another 1/2 day’s paid holiday for being 1 hour late.
I expected someone I knew, the Hiratsuka trainer Joel Northan from Interac to call me and say ‘sorry to hear about your situation, please take some time off’, or at least ‘sorry to hear about your situation’. As he would call me often, sometimes just to chat and see how things were going at the schools, but especially if anything unusual had happened. No one ever called back.
The next 3 weeks were traumatic but I still went to work cheerful, had great lessons, and then spent the rest of my time researching medical procedures, at my wife’s bedside and taking care of our 1 year old son.
On Monday the 2nd of March I had to go to Interac Yokohama ( 神奈川県横浜市中区長者町５丁目８５明治安田生命ラジオ日本ビル / 10F, Radio Nihon Building, 5-85, Chojamachi, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa) at around 4:30 pm for a meeting with Joel Northan (Trainer) and Satoko Aoki (Managing Consultant). It seemed to be for contract renewal.
They told me they would not give me another contract for 2009-10.
I asked them why.
Joel Northan said “Well, you left school early one day last week, and then you were late the day after”.
He then put 4 pieces of paper in front of me and I was told to sign them.
I asked if they understood why I left the school early and was late on the day after, and also if that was the only reason for not giving me a contract.
Joel Northan told me that they had a long list of problems with my work.
I asked him “Like what?” and “Did a school or the BOE complain about something?”
I was told it the schools or BOE had not complained. Then he told me that the Manager (presumably Akihiko Omata) had looked at the phone records and seen that I had made a lot of phone calls to the office, so he decided that it was evidence of lots of problems.
(Many times I had been told by Joel Northan and William Smith another trainer) to call the office much more, and to call over the smallest things to keep them up-to-date with details. I still didn’t like to call over trivial things like a school changing the time of 1 lesson, or schools not filling sheets out correctly).
Satoko Aoki told me that the Manager didn’t have confidence in me anymore and that I have to sign the papers so that they could pay me.
I told them that, as my wife was in the hospital at that very moment, I didn’t want to waste anymore time in the meeting and that I would read the papers at home, sign them and send them back.
Satoko Aoki was quite rude at this point and insisted that I sign them now. She told me that I couldn’t leave the room until I had signed them.
I was feeling quite sickened by their behaviour at this point so I picked up the papers, glanced at them and then put them into my folder and then into my bag.
I told them again that I would sign them at home and send them back.
Satoko Aoki was now rather angry, her face was red, slightly contorted and she was showing signs of shaking.
Satoko Aoki again and again said that I was not allowed to leave the room until I had signed.
After listening to this a few times and realising there was nothing more to discuss I stood up and told them I was leaving with the papers. I bidded them good-day and left. (Note see *** below)
I went straight to the hospital and that night my wife and I informed the doctor that we had decided to stop using the medicine which was preventing the onset of labour. The doctor told us that labour should begin around 48 hours later
I went to work as usual on Tuesday the 3rd.
On the evening of March 3rd, at around 6:30pm, I called Interac and asked to speak to a native English speaker (so as not to be misunderstood). I spoke to William Smith. I told him that I probably couldn’t go to work on the 5th as the baby was expected to die and be delivered that day, and that I would have to identify the body, as required by Japanese law. He told me that it was the first time he had heard about my situation and he sounded genuinely concerned. He told me to take the rest of the week off at least. I was thankful but told him I would go to work tomorrow and take Thursday off (expected birth date).
However at 11pm on the same night of the 3rd, my wife called and told me that labour was starting. So I, took my son to his grandparents and then went to the hospital. The baby died in the early hours of the morning. I called Interac as soon as the office opened to tell them that I couldn’t go to work, and to explain the situation. The baby was delivered at 10:48am, Wednesday the 4th of March.
We got to hold her. A little girl.
We had to arrange the funeral for as soon as possible. We could not book for Saturday and so booked for Friday.
I called Interac again and asked for a native speaker, again to avoid possible misunderstandings. I spoke to Joel Northan and told him I couldn’t go to work on Friday because I was going to the funeral. He told me it was fine and also said to apologise to my wife on his behalf as he didn’t know that she had been in the hospital when he informed me about my contract on March the 2nd.
After the funeral I had a chance to look at the papers that Joel Northan and Satoko Aoki tried desperately to get me to sign at that meeting on March the 2nd. Upon checking the 4 papers I found 1 was not for me, it was for Interac staff to fill in, 1 was requesting when I would like my final payment, 1 was requesting the same plus when I would like my penultimate payment.
However 1 paper (attached) stated:
‘THIS NOTICE is hereby made by ___________ (Employee#_____) on this _____ day of _____ , _____, to inform Interac of my resignation for the following reason:’ etc etc
Signature _________________ Date ______________’
So, on top of all the previous, they also tried to get me to sign a paper stating I was resigning without me even knowing it.
Extra notes –
2 months previously I was told that Interac were hoping I would continue my employment with them by Joel Northan.
I found out that Interac had lost the contract with the BOE in Hiratsuka for elementary schools for the 2009-10 year. The trainer involved has left Interac.
No-one ever called to apologise, the trainer and another trainer only apologised when 1 I called to tell them I had to take time off to identify the body, and 2 when I called to tell them about the funeral. Previously, they used to call me up at all hours about the smallest things.
About my teaching –
When I first started at Interac I was given, as my main school, what the BOE and teachers described as the worst school in the city. It probably was. Kids were smoking in the school, climbing out of second floor windows during the lessons and sitting on a 40 cm ledge smoking and talking in groups, sleeping in the class, punching teachers, bullying in the open etc etc.
3 years later the school is one of if not the best schools in the city, judging by the others I taught at. I could ‘reach’ every kid in the school, some for longer than others granted. Now the English level of even the first graders is far better than the 3rd graders from 3 years ago and almost every student in the school enjoys English lessons now. I walked into a bad atmosphere and spent every minute I was there trying to improve it through methods that Interac trainers and managers and many teachers don’t even know exist, like honesty, integrity, confidence, openess, friendliness, actually wanting to teach etc etc.
I’m not going to say I changed everything but I did what I could to improve things. There are some very nice teachers there who I respect, but at the student’s graduation ceremony this year I sat next to other teachers, head teachers, the vice principal etc and was very proud when a high percentage of the kids I’d known since their first year, walked up looking directly at me and bowed before receiving their certificates.
I will also send this to a union and to the Japan Times.
Feel free to contact me if you need anything else or if I have made some mistakes. michael1 AT mopera DOT net
Thank you for reading,