FUKUSHIMA-KEN--The English Literature Department at Ohu University in Koriyama City is currently seeking application for two full-time English conversation teachers to begin from April 1, 1999.

QUALIFICATIONS: Native-speaker competency in English, MA (preferably in English or TEFL) , and at least two years teaching experience in Japan at the college or university level. Satisfactory conversation skill in Japanese is also necessary.

DUTIES: Teach eight 90-minute classes per week in addition to other duties. Teachers are required to be present five days a week throughout the year. Upon appointment, teachers will be expected to reside in or near Koriyama.

SALARY AND BENEFITS: Salary commensurate with experience and ability; housing allowance, research budget. Two-year contract with possibility of renewal.

APPLICATION MATERIALS: Cover letter, resume in English with a recent photo attached; list of academic publications, copies of three major publications, two letters of recommendation.

DEADLINE: November 5, 1998. After the initial screening proscess, several applicants will be asked to come to Koriyama for an interview.

CONTACT: Office of the Dean, Ohu University, 31-1 Misumido, Tomita-machi, Koriyama-shi, Fukushima 963-8611. All applicants will be contacted after the initial screening process.

(courtesy JALT's The Language Teacher Job Information Center, November 1998, pg 71.)

Comment: For the degree of qualification and commitment they expect in this position--which would be demanding even for a regular Japanese-national full-time, tenured, post--a mere two-year contract is an affront.

Moreover, this university is making unreasonable demands--such as place of residence and the need to be in the workplace five days a week year-round by punching a time clock (unheard of in most universities). This shows a lack of trust and inflexibility towards employee privacy.

A FAQ from Ian Gleadall, a former employee at Ohu University:

Ohu University: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does "attendance 5-days a week throughout the year" acually mean?

A: Just that. No holidays other than week-ends, Japanese national holidays and short periods around New Year, Golden Week (beginning of May) and Obon (August). A staff member of the Literature Faculty recently asked about paid holiday (yuu-kyuu-kyuu-ka), to which the reply was: "You already get week-ends off" & "No-one else in the Literature Faculty has had any paid holiday."

Q: Does this mean that I am not allowed to travel abroad?

A: No. If you have written permission, no problem. However, if you leave Japan for whatever reason for more than one week (even with permission), you must fill in an application for "Kaigai Ryuugaku" [Study Abroad] and forfeit your salary in proportion to the number of days of the trip. This requirement might be waived, especially if your trip involves "kyouiku kenkyuu" ["Educational Research", meaning research directly connected with teaching], but you might not be informed of whether or not this will happen until after your return. [This rule is not in the University Regulations, it was introduced ad hoc by the President via the Head of Faculty at a Literature Faculty staff meeting in July 1997, and went unapposed: "Shikataganai" [It can't be helped] said one of the senior Japanese staff].

Q: How can they check how many days I attend the university?

A: You have to clock in and out with a timecard.

Q: What does the phrase "salary commensurate with qualifications and experience" mean?

A: You will start on the university pay scale according to qualifications and experience. However, your two-year "contract" will include a statement of your salary in figures, which therefore fixes your salary for 2 years (whereas Japanese staff get a "base-up" (annual pay rise) and an increment each year). If and when renewed, your contract will include a higher salary, but you will probably find yourself still at the same increment as when you started, but receive more cash because of the two annual raises that occurred between contract signings.

Q: Will I get Christmas and Summer bonuses?

A: You'll get your bonuses split into three: 2 months salary in July; 2.5 months in December and 1.5 months in March (each minus proportional amounts regarding any extra days you might have taken off, for whatever reason, during the respective period). However, be prepared to have your bonus cut because of some new regulation, or new interpretation of an existing regulation previously classed as not applicable to teaching staff: you may have your bonus cut in part, or you may receive no bonus at all (known cases include failure to provide bonuses to Gleadall in Dec. 1998 & March 1999; & to Ms. Miyake & Prof. Imaizumi in March, 1999 - no explanations given, even upon enquiry).

Q: Why is the word "contract" written in inverted commas?

A: Under Japanese labour laws, the only recognized contract period for full-time work is 1 year, otherwise the position is regarded as permanent until retirement age.

Q: How will my teaching load compare to Japanese staff members?

A: You'll be required to put in 33% more teaching time than Japanese staff, i.e. give 8 lectures a week, whereas Japanese staff currently teach 6 (although this may change to 8 lectures a week for all staff from April 1999).

Q: Has Ohu University always had this policy of discriminating against foreign members of staff?

A: No. Prior to April 1995, conditions were identical for foreign and Japanese staff, apart from the contract-signing "formality" every other year. Prior to 1994, foreign staff were informed at interview that their job is permanent, but that as an "administrative formality" they must sign a contract every two years). The wording of this contract has been changed every year since 1995.

Q: Does that mean, then, that it's possible to keep the job until retirement?

A: Previously, there was no guarantee, other than verbal assurances (but see below: Isn't it illegal . . .), but, strangely enough, the latest contracts include a clause stating that it is possible (if BOTH sides are in agreement) for foreigners to continue working at Ohu University until retirement age. However, see the accompanying table which notes a case where a foreign teacher was given only 2 months notice of dismissal (no legitimate reason given).

Q: Isn't it illegal to discriminate against foreigners in Japan?

A: Yes. Labour law (and the Declaration of Human Rights, of which Japan is a signatory) states that there shall be no discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race.

Q: Why did foreign staff agree to worsening conditions of work?

A: Contracts are changed with as little as 2 days' notice before they come into force, and offered on a "take it or leave it" basis. What would you do, with a family to support and no legal or even union representation (and the knowledge that at the merest mention of such dirty 5-letter words there would be no option on any further 2-year contract)?

Q: Don't Japanese staff have contracts too?

A: Yes and no. Staff recruited beyond retiring age are also made to sign 2-year or 3-year contracts. Regular (pre-retirement age) staff have a verbal agreement to abide by the university regulations but there is no formal written contract.

Q: Don't the Japanese staff members support the cause of foreign staff members?

A: Verbally, in private, yes. However, since the Literature Faculty of the university was set up relatively recently, many of the staff are well past retiring age. These are the people with power, but who wants to jeopardize their position when, including a monthly pension of around 300,000 yen a month, they are raking in somewhere in the region of around 1 million yen a month plus bonuses?

Q: What has the union done about this?

A: What union? There is no union for teaching staff at Ohu University, and staff do not want to get the reputation for union involvement because they believe it might jeopardize future job prospects.

Q: What are the current foreign staff doing, then?

A: Grinning & bearing (mostly), leaving and/or going to court.

Q: What court cases are ongoing?

A: Probably several, but the only one the writer can confirm is a case filed on 9th October 1998 by I. Gleadall against the President of Ohu University, suing for unpaid salary and bonuses since October 1997. In the opinion of the applicant and his lawyer, the President of Ohu University broke his contract with Ian Gleadall when salary cutting began in October 1997, on sudden introduction of a "year-round, 5-days-a-week" rule (without notice or discussion, which was explicitly forbidden). If Ian obeyed this rule, he would be unable to continue co-operative research projects in Sendai, where he lives. Complying with such a ridiculous rule would defeat the purpose for which Ian originally came to Japan: research. Continuation of this research was a specific point agreed at interview (and known to the President) for Ian's position at Ohu University, which commenced in April 1993. In addition, Ian is questioning the legality of descriminatory salary allocation (i.e. unpaid salary increments) and also suing for unpaid commuting allowance (which ceased suddenly and without explanation in April 1998).

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