Michael Collison Case: “Fired from Interac after death of infant daughter”


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar

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

Dear Debito,

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,

Michael Collison.


141 comments on “Michael Collison Case: “Fired from Interac after death of infant daughter”

Comment navigation

  • I am very sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you and your wife. I almost ended up joining that company, but some friends talked me out of it as I heard some very troubling stories about them. I heard they don’t usually hire Blacks, so I thought, why should I work for a company that hates me because of my skin color, but at the same time is willing to exploit me. No Way! There has to be some way we can bring this to the medias attention.
    This kind of atrocious behavior should never, ever be tolerated on any level! I’m so angry now! Never give up the struggle for human rights!


    Hi Debito

    I received this email from Interac a couple of days after asking them for an explanation related to the events described in your blog. It’s a fairly standard company non-explanation. I guess they deserve some credit for bothering to respond, although it is anonymous, so I guess no-one dared to put their name to it. I just hope that they responded to Michael as well to offer an official apology. Email and rough translation below:

    2009/4/21 Interac Info



    Thank you for your enquiry. We would like to apologise for the worry and concern we have provoked.


    We would also like to offer our condolences for the loss of Mr Collison’s child.


    We would like to explain quickly, although we are not able to comment further as there are privacy issues involved.

    ○ 2009年3月2日の時点において、同氏と面談を行った弊社従業員は、

    During the meeting in question, our staff member, while aware of the hospitalisation of Mr Collison’s wife, was not fully aware of the situation as we had not been informed directly by Mr Collison.

    ○ 従いまして、同氏雇用契約の非更新は、上記とは無関係に総合的かつ公平に

    Mr Collison’s non-renewal had nothing to do with the above, and was a decision reached in a fair and equitable manner.

    ○ 弊社は同氏との真摯なコミュニケーションを通じ誤解を解き、今後同様の事態が

    We regret the miscommunication between ourselves and Mr Collison, and will take steps to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future.


    Thank you for your further support.



  • Michael-
    I am so sorry to hear of the loss for you and your family. We too lost our twin boys at 5 months along in a similar way with my waters breaking too early. I hope you and your family are able to move past this horrible event.

    Of course, it doesn’t help when you don’t have the support of your employer, in fact the opposite happened and you were punished for something that should have been understood with sympathy and kindness.

    In my case, I was fortunately under a tenured position so I was treated more than fairly for the time I had to take off from my teaching position, at a university here in Hiroshima, to be cared for in hospital. But my husband had some trouble taking time off with his university despite having tenure- I think for husbands like yourselves- no matter what the family situation, if it is not directly happening to YOU then the expectation is for you to fit it in around your teaching schedule.

    I have also heard good and bad reports over the years about Interac, they are not well known for treating staff fairly- everyone from the office staff to teaching staff I have talked with over the years have reported that. There are definitely some eikaiwa schools that are better than others in terms of taking a human approach to management.

    Eikaiwa schools I have heard only fair reports of treatment from workers so far (in my over 13 years in Hiroshima) are: YMCA, David English house and Berlitz. I would suggest applying with one of these schools if you are still in need of a position.

    Warm Regards,
    Joy (jjwalsh)
    (Long term Hiroshima resident and editor Gethiroshima.com) http://www.Gethiroshima.com
    (parenting issues blogger) hiroshimaoyako.blogspot.com

  • Jim – Ulterior motives.

    I had a call last week from Kevin Salthouse at the Tokyo branch of Interac. He said he’d recieved a letter (the above) which I’d sent to Interac’s parent company, Selnate U.S.A. He asked me to meet with him. He told me he was very sorry for what had happened and that he thought there were some points he needed to address.
    I took this as a jesture of good faith and so me with him on Monday 20th of March.
    Kevin Salthouse with Denis Cusack first of all apologised for what had happened, then told me he had 2 areas he wanted to discuss *1- my work situation *2-the way things had been handled (1+2 shown below).
    He first asked me to explain again in my own words everything that had happened, even though he had a copy of the original letter in front of him.
    I obliged and spent around an hour explaining the whole difficult story and events.
    As soon as I finished his demeanour changed and I was confronted with what I would call ‘Interac Man’. In about 10 minutes he summed up and finished the meeting with:
    *1-It was handled badly and Interac would like to donate JPY100,000 to a charity in my name.
    *2-that they had to cut the number of teachers in Hiratsuka from 6 to 5.
    He then said that I was chosen because of my attendance record. I asked him for details. He said that I had called the office at lunchtime on May 2nd 2008 and told staff I had been late that morning (that’s 1 year ago, and doesn’t sound genuine at all, for me to call at lunchtime and tell them that I had been late that morning).
    He then said the company could not transfer me to another city because a. I didn’t have a degree and b. my japanese wasn’t good enough.
    I asked him if he knew how good my Japanese was, he said he didn’t know. He then said Interac Yokohama had said my Japanese was very bad. I have never spoken to Interac Yokohama in Japanese as they always speak English.
    NB. Other AET’s at Hiratsuka don’t have degrees, my Japanese is better than some and not as good as others. That includes others who are worse at Japanese without a degree.

    Kevin Salthouse and Denis Cusack didn’t once mention or apologise for the attempted forced ‘voluntariy resignation’, the behaviour of Aoki or anything else in a realistic manner. it was just a farce.

    If I had any doubts before, thinking maybe it was a miscommunication or misunderstanding, I know know that they were and still are fully aware of what happened and that it is being covered up, along with their motive.

  • Michael,

    I have had dealings with both these chaps at Interac head office a few years ago and, of course, with Interac itself when I was employed. Unfortunately, thse two are not the ones who pull any real authority or power in the company; imagine them as foreign puppets bought out and used by higher Japanese management. They are the type who are ‘just doing their job` without much heart or ethical thought. This is no excuse for their behaviour, of course.

    Michael, keep fighting. I think you are gaining a groundswell of support among the general readers of this site and others. I have been attaching this link to emails and my facebook.

    Keep us posted.

  • Adrian Jones says:

    Hi Michael,

    Seriously,this sounds like Interac are in the sh*t,please get some advise from Freeter union as I suggested before [you could try the General Union but they tend to want a whole years subscriptions up front],make an appointment to talk to Mr Kikuchi at Freeter Union :union@freeter-union.org or Tel 03-3373-0180 Mobile 090-8562-7953 Freeter also employ an interpreter Ms Risa Tokunaga who I would recommend sending an email to [rime_cat@yahoo.co.jp] outlining your case,it`s not going to cost anything so I would recommend doing this first.
    I would`ve taken that meeting with Interac as a sign of good faith that they wanted to make amends for this whole situation,although after reading your post that`s obviously not why they did it,they are clearly terrified of the bad publicity,[did you tape the meeting ?],I would recommend getting as much proof as possible.That resignation letter is priceless and may well be the item which really drops them in it,also as Norik mentioned, preventing you from leaving the room during the meeting with Satoko Aoki was highly illegal,make sure you mention that to the union.
    Having been through a similar situation last year,one thing that may happen is that Interac try to smear you by making up stories and gossip [at my previous school as soon as I got a union involved they did this,they said I threatened to kill the managers baby and didn`t want me teaching in case I kidnapped any of the children,they even lodged these and other lies on a seven page document at arbetration at the government building in Shinjuku ! ] judging by your post it sounds like they are already twisting the truth to fit their agenda,be careful and get some advise from a union or a lawyer.

  • To KG

    Gaijinpot is run by G-plus media who also own Japan Today (which they acquired from Metropolis 2 years ago)

    Metropolis is not related to these guys and does not run forums.

  • In response to the email from Interac to Debito –

    [○ 2009年3月2日の時点において、同氏と面談を行った弊社従業員は、

    *1*During the meeting in question, our staff member, while aware of the hospitalisation of Mr Collison’s wife, was not fully aware of the situation as *2* we had not been informed directly by Mr Collison.]

    *MY POINT* –
    *1* After the meeting in question I was told by Joel Northan that both he and Aoki were unaware that my wife was in
    the hospital at the time of the meeting, *2* despite my telling the company on 2 different occasions to 2 different
    Kevin Salthouse confirmed *1* + *2* in a meeting on 20th of March.

    [○ 従いまして、同氏雇用契約の非更新は、上記とは無関係に総合的かつ公平に

    *3* Mr Collison’s non-renewal had nothing to do with the above, *4* and was a decision reached in a fair and
    equitable manner.]

    *MY POINT* –
    *3* If it had nothing to do with ‘the above’ why would they use that as their number 1 reason?
    *4* Does ‘fair and equitable manner’ mean the 2nd set of reasons that Kevin Salthouse gave on April 22nd when he told me
    *A* I had called Interac on May 2nd 2008 at lunchtime to tell them that I had been late that morning?
    *B* That my Japanese is not good enough and
    *C* that I don’t have a degree.
    The lateness is possible but is almost 1 year ago.
    The statements A+B are false considering my Japanese is better than other Hiratsuka AET’s who also don’t have

    [○ 弊社は同氏との真摯なコミュニケーションを通じ誤解を解き、今後同様の事態が

    *5* We regret the miscommunication between ourselves and Mr Collison, and will take steps to ensure similar
    incidents do not occur in the future.]

    *MY POINT* –
    *5* The definition of ‘miscommunication’ is not-
    Coercing and ordering me to sign forms which I was falsely told was to enable their office staff to pay me my due
    monies, without mention of one actually being a resignation form.
    Telling me over and over again that I could not leave the room until I had signed all forms.

  • Micheal

    If you need a name of a very good lawyer, I can recommend one. I used them, they are extremely good. They speak both English and Japanese. They are Based in Osaka though.

  • I got the same response that Sendaiben did. Sounds like they have been taking a lot of heat over this one.

    Michael, if you wish to sue them, I will be happy to contribute.

  • let`s talk says:

    100,000 yen compensation for what they did? How much would they calculate their own job lost because of the lost kid? They should calculate it to 100 hundred and only after that they can say their offer.I agree with people here.You need a lawyer and a union.

  • Slightly off topic but I do think valid to the general topic about treatment of NJ’s in J-land…

    Metropolis fan: Thanks for the clarification.

    So on one hand they (GPlus Media) as Japan Today wish to be a credible news source and on the other as Gaijinpot dot com they claim to be the ‘No.1 for foreigners in Japan’ yet censor links detrimental to their sponsors in effect selling out by the censoring of any negative comments regarding Interac, links to unions and was is not the case with Gaijinpot when the NOVA fiasco first came to light that they deleted all discussion?

    Debito – as you have a tad more credibility than any of us mere users could you have a word with GPlus media or are they akin to the Mainichi and thus any negative image of life in Japan is deemed inappropriate?

    After all surely all of us dwindling NJ’s should be on the same team and ignorance can only be eradicated through awareness.

    on-topic: Michael fight this for everything… I understand that Japan is not elsewhere but if you were treated so in the States then you would have so much backing you up… you could claim unfair treatment, compensation for trauma/ not able to work again due to your employers treatment etc… sincerely the best of luck for you and your family.

  • It’s a disgrace that gaijinpot would rather take the money of sponsors and “vested interests” like Interac than do the humane thing and allow the public uncensored access to discussion about these cruel, cold people and their heartless actions.

  • My condolences posted on GP were removed. I heartfully offer them again.

    I was fired from my first job in Japan in much the same deceit and run around as was given to you. Ironically, the school in question had been in a wonderful fight with the union only a few years before. The union claimed victory. The school grew a new tail and was reborn. It continues to bite the heads of all sorts of NT, even today.

    I chose NOT to fight as I wanted to be rid of that school just as much as they wanted to be rid of me. I went on to bigger and better things.

    If you are going to fight, know what you are fighting for and choose your consul carefully.

    If you are going to move on, move on with speed and grace.

    peace to you and your family.

  • Interestingly, there seems to be a thread over at gaijinpot discussing this very matter. I wonder if KG and Simon have some other beef with gaijinpot and are, unfortunately, putting their own self-interests over Mr. Collison’s issue by ruining perfectly good threads with the use of very offensive language and wild accusations. Perhaps the two are members of this site: ponypot.proboards107.com/

    KG and Simon, this is not about you. Let’s hope Mr. Collison, finds legal redress for the alleged unprofessional way in which he was treated by Interac.

  • My condolences to Mr. Collison and his wife as well.

    I believe that Joe D. has the right answer. All the foreigners in the world won’t make Interac change, but all the BOE’s I’ve ever seen and the dozens upon dozens of schools I’ve been in have all been genuinely concerned about the welfare of the children. If you want to deal Interac a much deserved blow, go directly to the source: Its pocketbook.

    It is my personal observation that the Japanese take a distinct dislike to being told what to do by outsiders. When such a situation occurs, the response is invariably to reject the criticism–no matter how obviously right it may be. You are much better advised to direct your attention to BOE’s, schools and parents as a means to pressuring Interac back into humanity (as if that were possible).

    Also, Mr. Collison, don’t be fooled. The kids love you now, but soon they will be converted, mina onajisized into the very same Interac people you have been abused by today. This is the inevitable truth of the matter. You will try to make a positive impact upon them, dreaming that one day we will all see a better Japan for it, but we won’t. Better that you know that you have done a great thing for some young people and then go on with your life. How many of your childhood teachers do you actually remember today? The kids go on as they must, but we get stuck on it.

    Finally, in reference to some caucasian guilt-ridden, I’m-less-whitey-than-you, knee-jerk response I saw above: Yes! Racism is everywhere you go, but it is also disapproved of in all or most of those places. In this regard, Japan stands out in the crowd as racism seems a largely acceptable behavior here. If I recall, Japan has a law against discrimination but never “thought” to stipulate any punishment. I am sure that Interac will do its best to make sure that this never happens again.

    And this is really my final comment here. One thing which the 臍曲がり really seem to enjoy is watching foreigners turn on themselves for money. Seeing gaijin in Japan always reminds me of the old Ringo Starr movie, “The Magic Christian” when all the people dive into the pool of feces for a shot at their part of a million dollars. Every time you are spotted by one of these gaijin, you invariably receive the infamous “what are you doing in MY Japan” look. When these people learn not to be such P-tos we might have a chance of seeing things change.

  • Doesn’t surprise me in the least. None of this. I was with said company last year and it was all cold hard math. I would personally give you 100,001 yen just to keep fighting this.


  • WS,

    Based on what I have seen, neither Simon nor KG are exagerrating in regards to Gaijinpot, nor do I think they have any axes to grind.

    There has been a long history of them covering up any and all criticism of companies such as Interac and GABA, regardless of how valid that criticism might be.

  • Michael,

    Keep up the attention on this and get it circulating in Japanese as much and as soon as possible not just on the net but via other media as well. The court of public opinion will do more than anything else at this point.

    Make sure any future potential meetings you have with them are witnessed or documented/recorded in some official manner.

    Never under estimate the lengths they will go to to cover this up, delay it, discredit you and your family etc.

    If you decide to fight this/them, then commit to it for the long haul.

  • “….ruining perfectly good threads with the use of very offensive language and wild accusations.”

    I beg your pardon? Where is the “very offensive language and wild accusations”?

    Patently outlandish assertion for a transparently thin argument.

    How are gaijinpot’s censoring actions possibly defensible?

    Profits before people? Good luck with that one.

  • Michael,

    Obviously,do NOT accept their terms. A mere Y100,000 (even to a charity) is a bribe, and a puny one compared to what they know they will have to pay when they lose in court.

    Telling you that you cannot be transferred because you lack a degree is ludicrous. They hired you without it. There is no reason you can’t work anywhere for the company. That line is so weak it is pathetic.

    Your level of Japanese also does not matter. Even if it was nearly zero, plenty of people get hired to teach in solo or ALT positions, too. You are hired to teach English, speak English, use English, NOT Japanese.

    Dredging up an ancient and barely remembered absence record is also clutching at straws. Get them to show your attendance record (just this one absence, right?) is worse than the others. They won’t do it, of course, but…

    Best of luck.

  • My condolences to Mr. Collison and his wife as well.

    Sigh. Kevin Salthouse is still shilling for Interac. He was at the Hiroshima branch some nine years ago when they were having pay problems and just totally wilted for Interac’s side. They were paying my rent and I would receive letters addressed to Interac-sama saying it was late. He would chuckle and say “don’t worry…”. No surprise he has some cushy position in Tokyo…

  • Michael,

    First of all, I apologize for your loss. I cannot even begin to comprehend what you must have gone through.

    While I have never been employed by Interac, I have spoken to them on many occasions. In 2006 I had a job interview with none other than Ms. Aoki from the Yokohama branch. I was rejected for a position, but it was understandable why (I didn’t have a degree at the time.. not sure why they interviewed me in the first place to be honest). Following this, I went to the Tokyo branch for an interview in 2008, and at that time, I told them about my 2006 interview. They told me they had to check what happened before, and in the end, I was told that they had lost my application (see: disposed of it). After the interview, I was told that they couldn’t hire me because “There are no jobs in Osaka for somebody who doesn’t speak Japanese.” Two months before the interview I passed the JLPT level 2.

    Later on, I contacted Interac again in regards to employment. After talking to them for a while, I learned that they had lost my second application as well. At that time, I also learned that I should have just interviewed in Osaka before. After explaining that I was told all interviews had to be held in Tokyo, I got a long silence and an “Oh…”

    The point of all of this? I thought that they were just an unorganized and understaffed company.

    I had no idea that they were capable of something like this. Now that I do know, I can guarantee you that I will never offer myself as an employee to them again (they don’t seem to like me anyway), and I will make sure that all of my friends do the same.

    To me, the scariest thing about this is it’s not some random inaka ALT company. It’s the largest ALT supplier in Japan. Don’t back down to them. Get mean. They deserve every single thing that you can possibly do to them. We foreigners need to stop feeding these terrible ALT companies that shouldn’t even be necessary in the first place.

  • Why don’t you folks get creative?

    If Interac is really Selnate, an American corporation based in Utah, why not contact Utah’s Senators and let them know what’s going on in Japan?

    Why not hit a Utah newspaper about the story?

  • —-Telling you that you cannot be transferred because you lack a degree is ludicrous. They hired you without it. There is no reason you can’t work anywhere for the company. That line is so weak it is pathetic.—-

    But like temp agencies back in the States why can’t J-high schools require teachers to have a degree? I`m not arguing the merits of a four-year degree but only saying isn`t it up to the J-high schools to decided this and not the dispatch company?

  • I agree with Asterisk’s suggestion.

    This should not be limited to publicity within Japan; it should be fed to the international community as well. After all, that is where most of the green ALTs are hired from.

    When Nova started going belly up in mid-2007, the media in Australia got hold of the story because so many Aussies were emplyed by them. Before long, many people knew “Nova”.

    Internatinal attention to this, no matter how small, will help the embattled ALTs.

    (Problem is, it has to compete with bigger news stories like swine flu and economic collapse)/

  • Good idea from Asterisk. Here are a few others:

    * Encourage everybody you know that has a website, blog etc to link to this post on debito.org. Also, if you discuss it on other forums, bulletin boards etc, add a link to this post. If enough people do this, this post will start showing up on the first page of Google searches.

    * Someone should edit the Wikipedia page for Interac (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interac_(Japan)), decribing this controversy in a factual manner.

    * Hit ’em where it hurts. Interac boasts on it’s webpage: “Interac’s corporate clients include top-tier firms such as HONDA, the HITACHI GROUP, the MITSUBISHI GROUP, and NEC. Interac also serves Japanese government organizations, including JICA, Japan’s International Co-operation Agency.” Contact these companies and governmental institutions directly (with CC to Interac) and let them know what is going on.

  • My condolences to Michael and his family for their loss.

    Debito, I think this story is worthy of coverage in the community section of the Japan Times where I’ve read some of your articles.

  • ‘Interestingly, there seems to be a thread over at gaijinpot discussing this very matter’.

    Could you please direct me to the mentioned thread?

    There seems to be nothing on GP about this issue…

  • My heart goes out to Michael and his family. I’ve got a 2 year old son, but my wife miscarried once before he was born, and once again after.

    I can’t believe that anyone could be so careless (Interac, I mean). It’s difficult to sum up my impression regarding them… Rotten, really ROTTEN.

    I hope this makes the mainstream news, and that all those involved get named, shamed and fired. I hope that Michael gets some proper compensation.

    I wish there was something I could do to help. I’ll be following this case closely, and if there is a protest, a petition, or anything like that – count me in.

  • One of Interac’s simplest rules is “call us before you do anything related to illness, leaving work, etc etc.” If the guy took the time to explain to the Vice-Principal of the school (through translation) the situation, he could have taken the time to make a 30 second call to Interac to say he had to leave work early. Although Interac clearly acted like idiots, the guy should have known through reputation what Interac (and any dispatch company) were like. What people need to remember is that they do not work for the school they are in, they work for Interac. Explaining the situation to his JTE and VP was pointless, when it should have been done through Interac.

    The lesson from all of this is: if you choose to work for a company like Interac (which is something only idiots do anyway, let’s get that straight first), make sure you stick to the rules, because there’s ten more idiots waiting to get a job with Interac for every idiot that already works for them. Sad world.

    — I think it impolitic to call the victim in this case an “idiot”.

  • Michael, I worked for Interac Yokohama in 2007 and I had a similar run in with the Northan-Aoki tag team myself, and it’s part of the reason I left Japan. I see that they have gone from shafting employees to full blown crimes against humanity. I knew they were slimy and dishonest, but I had no idea they were that purely evil.
    I don’t know how safe it is to exchange emails in a forum, but if our good moderator can help us contact each other, I’ll be happy to fill you in on what I know.
    I up and quit on Interac in 2007 due to some shabby (though certainly not THIS shabby) treatment from Interac AND the BOE fat cats that hired them.
    Since then I’ve had it stuck in my craw, and now it’s definitely time to act. First up, I’ll give you some names.
    I approached a Union in Tokyo called the Nambu Union. Louis Carlet is a member there and he’s already taken a couple of Interac Yokohama cases as well as slugged it out with Nova on several occasions. Nambu and Mr. Carlet have web pages. Catherine Campbell is also a good person to talk to at Nambu.
    2 BOE bigwigs that defend Interac tooth and nail are Elizabeth Knight and a fellow by the name of Sekiguchi, who tried his best to assassinate my character after I resigned from Interac. I’m uncertain if you working in the same area of Kanagawa. If I can contact you somehow, I’ll share as much as I can with you. You have a brother in this fight. My deepest condolences, Good Luck and God Bless.

    — NUGW Nambu can be contacted via http://www.nugw.org. I’ll pass on your email to Michael.

  • There’s also a group on facebook for disgruntled Interac victims with hundreds of members. One of them is a friend of mine, Greg Diamond. He and his wife had a feud with Interac that was shown on the Japanese news. He’s another fellow who’s very knowledgeable about these issues.
    The best advice for steps to take that I can give is:
    1.contact others who are Japanese labor law savvy (which you’ve already done. Good move.)

    2. Join a union

    3. Contact Hello Work and the Labor Standards Office

    4. See if you can get this on the mainstream news. It’s been done.

    5. Be prepared for Interac to stall, stall, stall, and stall some more. Stalling and flagrant dishonesty are their frontline weapons. But they’ve been beaten before.

  • Thanks Andy.
    Thanks for all your info.
    I have been thinking things over for a while, but I’m now trying to contact someone relevant from a union to see if they are interested.

    A funny thing – As this is posted on several sites, I saw a post from a guy who explained that he could tell I wasn’t a native English speaker, lol. I can’t get much more native than being from Manchester in England.
    He derived this based upon the bad English in my original post on gaijinpot (maybe I was typing in Manchester English again). I was quite proud of that original post as I wrote it sponteneously whilst sat on the kitchen floor after ‘a few(?)’ drinks and hardly edited it.
    Some other funny posts I’ve seen are from people who say they don’t believe it.

    Hopefully I can shed some light as to what will be done soon.

    Thanks for everyone’s support. Hope I can pay it back sometime.

  • let`s talk says:

    Michael, there are a lot of funny people around who think that the “Right” English is the one spoken in their village.Just ignore them.Your story got the record number of comments and posts in all forums, except the one (sponsored by Interac).
    There are more than one union in Kanto, people posted their links here.I don`t see why someone relevant from a union can be NOT interested in your story.But if it happens, I would appreciate if you tell us the name of the union that refuses to protect your rights.It will be very useful for foreign workers to know this union`s name and stay away from its memebership.Thanks in advance.

  • To anyone who feels he or she is being exploited by Interac, W5, IES and others – don`t be passive and call the Labour Standards Office. People speak really good English in the one in Tokyo. Don`t sign anything when in doubt!

  • “Japan is a blast for a few years when you’re in your 20’s, but the B.S. gets too stale to stay there long term. I had my fun there for a handful of years, but your story is an extreme example of the same Japanese sentiment that woke me up from the fun and sent me back home where I ultimately belong. They don’t really want us there long-term anyway. They want us to come over for a year or two, sip some green tea, visit some temples, then buzz off back to gaikoku and tell everyone how unique and enchanted Japan is. If we stay longer than that, we might learn that their poop smells bad, too, and they don’t want that.
    So, time to head home. Your wife will love it there, trust me.
    All my sympathies for losing your child.”

    This is sad but very true. Its an uphill battle. Debito is making progress, but if I left this place tommorow, I would feel exactly the same way, that is its a blast for the first few years, then its a drag. Ive personnaly went in and out of depressions and weird mental sh-t due to it. Being ignored, stared at, it all takes its toll. I dont reccomend it long term.

  • Arniel Brown says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about the loss, Mr. Collison. I too, have been fighting with Interac. I am a former employee, who worked in Okayama prefecture in 2008 and part of 2009. It was, hands down the worst year of my life in Japan.

    Interac lied to me from the beginning, first having a contract for me, that if I had finished would have paid me 200,000 yen, but then 2 days prior to being dispatched to what was supposed to be Kochi prefecture, I was then sent to Okayama prefecture and verbally told by the 2 MC’s at the time (Peter Kwong and Lucas Sinclair) that the bonus would be pulled, because I was now sent to a new prefecture.

    I told them that THEY breached my contract, and we needed to draw up a new contract ASAP. They stalled, stalled stalled. 9 months later, when I was going through a breakup and clinically diagnosed depression, they then presented me with a new contract minus the bonus, and pulled the same tactic as above, that Ms. Aoki did. “If I leave the room I must sign the documents.” After stalling a bit, and getting into a near physical confrontation with Mr. Sinclair (he too like Ms. Aoki got red in the face, took off his tie, and started pacing like a cage animal, after I refused to sign.) I decided to sign the paperwork.

    Months later after I recovered from my depression, I decided to fight them on numerous accounts, such as the breach of contract, and for the mere fact that they don’t enroll us into pension, unemployment or health insurance schemes. I am fighting them with the help of the general union and it does seem like the Japan government is on our side.

    However, I haven’t claimed full victory yet, as Interac hasn’t fully paid the money that they owe me for various reasons (such as unpaid vacation time, training time etc.) Also, I’m not sure but I did also receive the contract between my former BOE and Interac and see how much the BOE paid Interac for my services, and would possibly use this as evidence as well against Interac.

    Interac continues to lie to the government that we work only 29.5 hours a week and / or 5.9 hours a day. However, they bill the schools for 7.5 hours of our work each day. So there is a difference there. The main reason why Interac lies is so they could not pay into the 3 above schemes in the first place. It’s flat out illegal, and dubious.

    I’m fighting, but I can’t do it alone. We need to all stand up against them, you too Mr. Collison. I do hope that you are indeed working direct hire now for another company, and still fighting against Interac. I need more people to join me in my fight, because frankly I’m tired of getting rejection letter after rejection letter from Interac and their crazed logic as to why they don’t owe me the money, or as to why they could skirt around the law.

    Anyway, hope to have read something encouraging today, and saw this article. It’s good to know there are others out there, but let’s combine our forces and bring down the giant.

    Thanks for listening,
    Arniel Brown

  • Anonymous says:

    What I’ve seen time and again with these companies is that the are successfully using intimidation against current and potential employees.

    The rules are simple – no contract, no work. Contract terms change, new contract is needed – again, no contract, no work. Break the contract terms, they can talk to a lawyer.

    As for not paying pension/health/employment insurance I do hope the government enforces the point – society at large loses out when companies skip out on paying their fair share.

  • Dude. Join the local union and fight against this garbage. The General Union in Osaka and Fukaoka, Nambu FWC in Tokyo all do battle against Interac and I have seen things like this before. Not to this degree, but I was able to get a settlement for someone that got fired for being pregnant last year.

  • Hi Michael,

    Also would like to send out my condolences to you and your wife’s personal loss as well as everything that you have suffered through with Interac.

    I am a relatively new English Teacher in Japan (5 months) and had a very informative experience with RCS in Saitama, proving how terribly disorganized and unaccountable most of these agencies are. It just saddens me that at the end of it all, its the students who are losing out in all this and I dont think the BOE’s seem to care or realized as long as its cheap. I was considering Interac as a serious option and was just doing some background research when I found this thread. So thank you for sharing this. It has been very informative for me, and I will certainly consider other employment options more seriously. I was also wondering if someone could reccomend some better agencies to go through if trying to enter the public education system?

  • Hello, i have just read your story

    I know how terrible interac are and im really sorry to say, i am not suprised by your story but i am very very saddened for you

    i know will smith, joel et al and they are incompetant liars who made my life slightly uncomfortable but my other friends and colleagues life hell. and they never paid me. and to be fai, i had friends working for interac all over japan and yokohama branch were definitely the worst. horrendous.

    i wish i could magically understand japanese fluently and japanese law so that i could take them down.

    i tried to make a union in yokohama to no avail and now live back in the UK so i can’t.

    please please make one. this is ridiculous.

    good luck for the future and ill keep checking to see what happens.

  • i think 36’s comment is particularely alarming.
    there are a lot of people out there who like japan for all it has to offer, and i’ve heard before that they would like to settle down there. but then i read that it’s only good for a few years, and that the BS takes its toll on you, as he says himself.

    it’s really saddening to read that.
    if that person reads this comment here, what exactly have you been through yourself if i may ask?

  • Thanks for posting and articulating your story Michael. It must have been painful to have gone over your story again with Interac Managers only to have them wrap up the meeting in the same irresponsible manner with which they tried to get your resignation. They should have waited there with you until you were ready to excuse them.

    For all the others who have made comments, I would really like to hear some of your bad treatment stories directly. Please come along to one of the ALT union meetings.

    Please contact the Interac Union http://interacunion.org/ and other ALT unions and English teachers at Tokyo Nambu FWC.

    Always remember the noble purpose of teaching to which we are called despite thieving bureaucrats on one side, thieving dispatch companies on the other, and on occasion egotistical JTEs mincing about and robbing children of opportunity.

    The Fundamental Law of Education. March 31,1947 under the Constitution of Japan

    Article 6. School education

    Teachers of the schools prescribed by law shall be servants of the whole community. They shall be conscious of their mission and endeavor to discharge their duties. For this purpose, the status of teachers shall be respected and their fair and appropriate treatment shall be secured.

    Status Respected,
    Fair and Appropriate Treatment, Secured!

  • Foreigners really need to join a Union. When in a union one has far more rights (not to mention slidarity with fellow workers).

    If in a union, Michael may not have been so upset abut the situation. At least not upset about being fired by those “people” and that criminal organization. It would have almost certainly gone to the labor commission but the company would have settled before any formal judgements. Membership very cheap. Unlike American unions, they are not for profit organizations. The most important thing isnt the money, it is supporting the union, union members and Union activities. of course one doesnt have to do that but the only way they work is for eveyone to show solidarity and support each other.

    Anyone in Hokkaido who wants more info contact rentairoso@gmail.com in English web@rentai-union.com in Japanese or see the webpage in Japanese here http://www.rentai-union.com/hotline/index.html

    Anyone not in Hokkaido who wishes to get more info can see the webpage for info on affiliate Unions (Renai Roso is a Union under the National Union of General Workers umbrella.) or contact those e-mails.

    If all the foreigners who came here automatically entered Unions upon gaining employment as most Japanese workers and all teachers do, this kind of abuse would be impossible unless the government radically changed the law.

  • Michael, I’m really sorry to hear about your terrible loss. I hope you and your family have all the support you need to get through this terrible ordeal.

    As for Interac, I am DISGUSTED at such awful behaviour! It’s people like these that give the human race a bad name! I hope your future life takes you far, far away from these despicable people!


Comment navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>