Rube Redfield on the GOJ banning use of dispatch teachers in J universities


Hi Blog. Here’s one loophole that has just been closed by the GOJ–about the use of “dispatch teachers” (haken sha’in) in the place of full-time workers in universities.

Some background. My friend Joe Tomei defines “dispatch workers” as:

“A ‘dispatch teacher’ is one who is employed by a company which sends them (thus, ‘dispatches’ them) and bills the school. This was quite common for companies which wanted to have language lessons, but is a bit dubious when it is a university that is getting the teacher.”

This form of “outsourcing” creates problems not only with professionality (essentially putting in “temp” workers in place of qualified professionals), but also with labor standards, as you get disposable ersatz “part-timers” replacing all educators, full- or part-time, saving money on salaries and social insurance (which the educational institution must pay half of for all full-timers). You also have issues of employee relations; with a dispatch worker, management never even has to “meet” or associate with their worker; he or she just parachutes in without any oversight–except from the third-party dispatch company. And the contracting company can at a moment’s notice say, “get rid of this person”, and he’s replaced immediately–without even a contract term limit or “reasonable grounds” that could be taken before a Labor Standards agency. Thus job security and rights for dispatch workers are even less than that for regular part-timers.

Moreover, with big-name “dispatch agencies” (such as the erstwhile NOVA, Berlitz, and David English House) getting involved in this racket, you get businesses getting a percentage as well–sending in disposable labor for a fraction of the cost of hiring anyone with job security and training. The economic incentives are clear. So clear they were abused. Now the GOJ has banned it. Bravo.

As Rube Redfield writes below, the labor unions brought this one to the authorities’ attention, and got it redressed. Well done. Again, the power of protest and activism.

There are, however, universities (such as Ritsumeikan) ignoring these new GOJ guidelines. And there are still loopholes for people in primary and secondary education, with dispatch working still happening in non-university job markets. Maybe the GOJ will get to that, too (or maybe not, with the primacy of JET in this market). More on issues with employment in the Japanese educational job market at the Blacklist of Japanese Universities.

There is another loophole recently closed by the GOJ, that of universities putting age caps on employee job announcements (“candidates must be under 35 years”, for example). That was made illegal last October 2007. But I’ll let somebody who knows more about this write something up. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

Kobe Shoin and the Use of Law
By Rube Redfield, IWW

In January of 2007, the EWA began negotiations with Kobe Shoin, concerning the replacement of EWA educators with dispatch teachers from the private companies ECC and OTC. Our Chairman (incho) Neo Yamashita pointed out that the use of dispatch personnel went contrary to MEXT guidelines, but was ignored. Shoin claimed that since the Metropolitan University of Tokyo used dispatch teachers, Shoin was free to do so as well.

In a further negotiating session, EWA declared willingness to go to the Kobe Labor Relations Board, disclosing the dubious practice of using dispatch personnel to replace qualified EWA members. We were begged not to carry out our threat, but since Shoin was unwilling to negotiate on this point (or any other), we went ahead and reported directly to the Labor Relations Board. Some of you may have seen the news clips of us doing so on TV.

MEXT changed their ‘guidance’ strategy later in the year, by passing “Article 19 of Daigaku Sechi Kijun,” making the use of dispatched teachers at the college and university level illegal. The new law comes in to effect April 1, 2008.

In negotiations with Shoin this past January (2008) we inquired if Shoin were now going to obey the new law and no longer bring in people from dispatch companies. The assured us that this was the case, and that no teachers from ECC or OTC (or any other jobber) would be employed at Shoin.

Kobe Shoin changed their employment practice as a direct result of EWA pressure. This once again shows the power of unionism. If any reader knows of cases where colleges or universities are still disobeying the law, please contact us. The new law should be a powerful tool in stopping the use of dispatch teachers in higher education in Japan.

Rube Redfield may be reached at rube39 ATT iww DOT org

Links to more information on the issue, courtesy of Glenski:

The General Union has a good description of 3 ways dispatch companies operate and their pitfalls.

This GU link ( talks about the illegality of outsourcing because of lack of licenses.

And another GU link ( citing an article in the Yomiuri which gives figures on how many dispatch ALTs are out there in Osaka prefecture.

And the NAMBU Foreign Workers Caucus has a bunch of info here.

18 comments on “Rube Redfield on the GOJ banning use of dispatch teachers in J universities

  • When I first came here, before I found work in IT, I was working at an English school to make ends meet, and I recall one of my colleagues at that school also had another job at some outsourcing outfit (Interac or something?). Anyway, one of her clients a couple days a week was some small university in Saitama.

    She and the college both came to the realization that they would both be better off if the college hired her directly, but the problem was that the college did not need (and could not afford) to hire a teacher full-time, so they stayed with the dispatch company.

    I agree that it’s a good thing to minimize the use of dispatch teachers, but I wonder what the really small schools are going to do for teachers now…


    Debito, G here from [a Japanese university]. I was stunned to read on your blog the following:

    “There is another loophole recently closed by the GOJ, that of universities putting age caps on employee job announcements (”candidates must be under 35 years”, for example). That was made illegal last October, 2008. But I’ll let somebody who knows more about this write something up.”

    This practice has irritated the hell out of me every since I got here long ago. I’ve searched all over the Japanese internet for such a law or reference to such a new edict (clearly you meant October 2007!), to no avail. I’d like to tell the administrators here (and at other universities) that they are breaking the law every time they do that. And they do it pretty much every time, including my department.

    Any tidbit or clue to lead me closer to the source of this law or government directive would be greatly appreciated.


    Of course. Here are some links from James McCrostie at the PALE group:

    Joe Tomei recently wrote up a piece on age limits for the Job Information Centre column in The Language Teacher. It is about to start the proofing process and will be published in the May edition. I don’t think it would be fair to TLT to blog it before it appeared in print but after May I have no problem.

    However for some primary source info…

    The Japan Labor Flash No.79

    “At a cabinet meeting on February 9, the Government decided to submit to the Diet a bill on the revision of the Employment Insurance Law; and at another meeting on February 13, bills on revisions to the Employment Measure Law, the Law Concerning the Promotion of Local Employment Development, and the Part-Time Work Law.

    As described in our preceding issue of the Japan Labor Flash, on January 22, the Labour Policy Council returned those draft bills “reasonable”.

    A revised Employment Measure Law will include regulations regarding increasingly older freeters, whereby employers will be banned from posing age limits on job openings (current regulations simply require them to make efforts not to do so). At the same time, a revised Part -Time Work Law will aim to eliminate the gap between part-time and regular employees; it will clearly state that employers are responsible for ensuring equal treatment of part-time and regular employees, thus encouraging part-time workers to change their status to regular employees.”

    The Japan Labor Flash No.89

    “On July 5, the 166th Ordinary Diet session ended. During the session, various labor-related bills passed the Diet, which include the revised Part-Time Work Law which provides that part-time workers receive similar treatment to that of regular workers; the revised Employment Measure Law which prohibits firms from placing age limits when recruiting and hiring employees, and obligates them to report on the employment of foreign workers…”

  • I have to ask, why do you think a dispatch teacher is somehow less qualified than what universities normally hire? They have to have the same qualifications to get their visas. And with the falling birth rate, falling college enrollement, etc. schools can offer much needed instruction in areas where they cannot afford a full time staffer.

    –I strongly doubt the same qualifications apply to a Professor Visa and, say, a Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa. In fact, I know they don’t. And finding differently-qualified scabs to fill in for qualified but more expensive teachers is precisely the problem. Don’t glibly conflate visas, and don’t conflate economics and education. They don’t mix well.

  • I don’t think ‘scabs’ is the proper term to use. I found myself having to work as a dispatch ALT in because of the lack of jobs available in my part of Japan for a non-dispatch worker. I did not put anyone out of a job – the BoE concerned had already decided decided to cut back on JET ALTS. No doubt the same decisions are made in the Universities.

    Workers have no power here, we cannot be ‘scabs’ – just drones who are supposed to be grateful for what scraps they get.

    I agree on the lower qualification aspect of dispatch.


    How it is possible to argue for faculty development when they are using dispatch teachers?


    I was told my someone in the know at the Shunto last week that Ri-chan is indeed using dispatch scabs.

    BTW, isn’t it interesting how we are always being told at schools where we work, basically to shut up and follow ‘the rule,’ yet the schools seem to follow govt. law and regulations only when they find doing so convenient.


  • I have seen quite a bit of discussion on a couple of forums where Rube’s article was posted or linked. First of all, let me add to Debito’s initial remarks by adding dispatch company names ECC and Westgate Corporation to the list.

    Some serious points of concern include the alleged fact that most dispatch agencies operate illegally because they don’t have a license. MEXT overlooks this, sad to say.

    One POV to take is the worker’s. I, too, don’t care for the term “scab”, as it conjures images to me of a person crossing a picket line, where this is clearly not the case with dispatch workers, is it? But, getting back to the worker, he may or may not have the same credentials as a FT or PT university worker. For those who don’t, yes, it’s a slap in the face, but for those who do, there isn’t any quality difference between a direct hire PT worker and a dispatch teacher, is there?

    Another POV is that of all teachers. Dispatch teachers are at risk because of little or no benefits. I don’t completely agree with Debito about the job security angle, though. If a dispatch teacher were told the school didn’t want him there, he is still under contract and would be reassigned, instead of fired outright, wouldn’t he? And, another dispatch teacher from the pool would take his place. Does anyone have knowledge of being fired instead of reassigned?

    A third POV is that of the uni teachers and staff and what Debito marks as employee relations. How much is there with just regular PT teachers? I really don’t know because my own university has only 2 PT teachers, but I would imagine that once their classes are done, they are off to do more PT work elsewhere, so there is little time to have any employee relations. The PT teachers at my school sit and chat with us FT teachers maybe only half the time and only for an hour before they have to leave. What is the case in unis bigger than mine?

    Just a comment about what Debito posted for James McCrostie from PALE, regarding “the revised Part-Time Work Law which provides that part-time workers receive similar treatment to that of regular workers.” I’m not sure, but I have heard that some dispatch companies get around any law for PT workers by declaring their teachers as sub-contractors. More bobbing and weaving to be aware of, I guess.

    Lastly, I invite everyone to look in on the discussions at the ESL Cafe and the (flame-ridden) Gaijinpot web sites. It almost seems like the few uni teachers who post there are pooh-poohing this move because they feel it will amount to nothing. Please read why (and don’t shoot the messenger, me). Please also look at what has been posted on the JALT Hokkaido blog by one commenter, who seems to have quite a bit of knowledge on the subject and who suggests that this plugging of a loophole may not apply to all universities.

    –Regardless of any mitigating factors (assertions ended with question marks), the GOJ has banned this practice, and for reasons both the labor unions and I happen to agree with. Now let’s see if companies follow regulations.

  • Debito,
    Since the law itself seems to have been passed mid-2007, I’m curious how it is that some people are reporting that dispatch agencies are making their contracts with universities for the 2008 academic year. Any ideas? I can only think that perhaps the law was not widely advertised, or that it may not pertain to certain types of universities.

    Also, someone called to ask about Westgate Corporation. They wrote the following: “…called Assistant Language Teachers Caucus (TEL: 03-3434-0669).

    It seems companies such as Westgate are legal because they fall under the category of out-sourcing instead of dispatch.

    Westgate teachers are under the direct control of Westgate and not the university which is ok under the law. Dispatch employees take direction from the university where they’re sent and this is a no-no after April 1, 2008.”

    I still say they operate illegally because of what one of the General Union links I provided says about HAKEN and ININ types of organizations. Do you agree?

    You wrote “let’s see if companies follow regulations.” Is this a regulation or a law? And, in any case, I would add to what you wrote, let’s see if anyone in authority will do anything about breaches of such an edict!

  • The one point here that we as English teachers need to consider is the loss this means for the students. Universities will find it harder and harder to hire English teachers. Visa applications, qualifications, interviews and all of the red tape involoved with hiring a teacher will be too much for them to deal with. Let’s face it- Japanese students need contact with foreign teachers and greatly benefit from that contact. Who really gains from this law?

    –“Universities will find it harder and harder to hire English teachers.”

    Are you seriously suggesting there is currently a shortage of English teachers in this country? And with the decreasing student population, that universities currently do not have enough educators hired already? No, dispatch is not a way to hire educators more easily. It’s a way to hire them more cheaply. And if anything, to fire them more easily. That is an unavoidable dynamic of the case.

  • I called the Assistant Language Teachers Caucus (TEL: 03-3434-0669) and it was explained there is a difference between dispatch and outsourcing companies. It seems companies such as Westgate are legal able to operate because they fall under the category of out-sourcing and not dispatch.

    Teachers who are under the direct control of out-source companies such as Westgate and not the universities are ok under the new law.

    Dispatch employees on the other hand are those who take direction from the university where they’re sent and are to be banned after April 1, 2008.

    So my question is why wouldn’t companies like Westgate continue to grow and what if anything can be done to stop the out-source of teaching jobs?

  • I forget to add:

    If the new law does rule that both out-sourcing and dispatch companies are illegal what exactly can be done?

    For example I know two universities which make no bones about using Westgate and Berlitz teachers. Can I register a complaint? Will anything actually come of it?

    And why does a company like Westgate (I called them) seem so unconcerned? They told me there is nothing to worry about and their company was complying with the new law.

  • Patricia wrote: “The one point here that we as English teachers need to consider is the loss this means for the students. Universities will find it harder and harder to hire English teachers. Visa applications, qualifications, interviews and all of the red tape involoved with hiring a teacher will be too much for them to deal with.”

    Sorry, I agree with Debito here. On average there are 20-100 candidates applying for every university job. No shortage. As for universities dealing with red tape, that’s hogwash. They’ve been doing it long enough, and they have to advertise, interview, and select Japanese teachers, too. Should they hire THEM through dispatch/outsourcing agencies, too?

    No, they are just lazy and they feel they can save money.

  • Berlitz -is still actively participating in the outsourcing/dispatching network of introducing recent college graduates to Tokyo Metropolitan University and Kogakuin University Tokyo/Hachioji campuses. Each year they lose (a guesstimated) 90% of their teaching force due to offensive continue pay reductions of travel pay and monthly income. In addition, university teachers are assigned demanding daily teaching schedules including “office-hour” requirements after classes finish for the day. This is also part of a schedule whereby the teachers who are not able to fill their 40hr work-week at the university, are then required to return to the learning centers they are dispatched from to teach “eikawa” classes to children and adults. Contracts stipulate that during any university holiday period the university teacher’s assignment is at the learning center… all this for a ridiculous monthly check.

    Now… Berlitz would like to contend that the university does not control the teachers, and therefore the dispatching is legal. But, it is not entirely true; albeit, I have no room to type specific examples. In addition, all English course work taught by foreign teachers are neither part of the term exams nor applicable towards the grade the students receive. Only attendance seems to apply. Books the Japanese English professors use are superior to the self-published Berlitz manual which appears to be at a Junior High School level text. It is ridiculous in its application and structure and insulting to the level of the students at the university.

    SCABS… was a term we Berlitz (university) teachers use to call ourselves jokingly, when we learned that tenured professors were fired and Berlitz was awarded a contract to produce cheap-labor. The word SCAB is simple semantics… and not really applicable unless a strike is in progress; but in the end it technically applies. I find no offense in the word, because I was part of the system whereby I had agreed to lower wages to simply be employed.

    Why… am I writing this? You may ask… well until recently I was staff for Berlitz, and found myself unemployed when cheaper-labor was found and replacing me was another way to reduce cost and increase profit. So, now the cat is out of the bag. My advice for those who seek employment at the university level is to find a rewarding and appropriate appointed that is direct-hire by a university that appreciates your talent, knowledge, and experience -do not settle for less. And I wonder… why are Kogakuin University and Tokyo Metropolitan University not on the “Black List”?

    –Provide primary-source materials or witness statements and they will be. The criteria are up at the Blacklist. Debito

  • Hooray!! It’s about time. Now only if good ol’ MEXT will extend the law to the lower levels. Even they know that success in second language learning comes with the earliest possible beginnings. Local Boards of Education have a duty to select the best qualified foreign language teachers for their young learners instead of the dime a dozen dispatchers. You don’t see them outsourcing for regular Japanese teachers of any subject. No, there are specialist teachers spanning the spectrum of academic subject from music to Japanese. These teachers are employed usually on one-year contracts, but not through staffing agencies. Personally I don’t believe JET should have any bearing on the issue as it’s an exchange program before it is a teaching program.

  • Tokyonights says:

    “What if the Uni. can’t afford full time staff? Ever think about that one?” I really dspise that line of reasoning, as I spent a lot of time and paid a lot of money (or had paid on my behalf) to earn both a BA and an MA, and most of my classes were taught by underpaid adjuncts. One simply should not defend the a uni. as a victim. The teachers are victims. I am a dispatch at one of the bigger schools and I will tell you it sucks. The job itself is OK, the problem is there is no oversight of teaching materials, qualifications of teachers are not carefully checked.
    My employer is more fond of enforcing behavioral guidelines for teachers rather than worrying about instructional quality. This is a common industry ploy, make the teachers feel guilty for their mistakes so they don’t focus on the important things, like the fact that their job brings them little meaning in life or satisfaction or that the teaching materials were poorly constructed. Teachers are routinly threatened with being pulled from their positions becase of lateness, not being popular with students, etc. In fact “student comments” are seriously considered as “important feedback” which teachers are judged by, however individual instructors are never given accurate results of student feedback just a filtered version from management. Lesson prep time is not compensated and office hours are constantly being reduced to cut costs so teachers have to prepare for classes on their own time and buy their own extra materials. Management also uses employees who voluntarly offer their time as fodder against employees who refuse to donate their precious time and money to the company. Also the time we do get paid for is not paid at a rate any higher than the average Eikaiwa. So the question is not what can the uni afford, but rather can teachers really afford to teach these kinds of jobs.

    The bottom line is these dispatch jobs beat working the middle school or Eikaiwa racket but don’t confuse working as a dispach teacher at a uni with being a uni prof. the two are as they say in Japanese Kankei nai!

  • Thanks but the comments provide no really insight. Companies like Berlitz and Westgate seem to have no trouble getting around the MEXT guidelines which were enacted April/2008.

  • Jim Chambers says:

    Is there a copy in English and/or Japanese of the revised law (daigaku sechi kijun, article 16) outlawing the use of dispatch teachers in universities?



    So many people are spinning their wheels on this Article 19. I would like to make a suggestion.
    If you post a letter (in English and Japanese) to “University management officials” informing them of the new laws and that the teachers at “their” schools have brought information regarding illegal practices to MEXT and/or the press, I am certain that hundreds of University teachers would print and send the information to their Universities and REAL action will be taken.

    Sometime the shortest distance between two points is a straight line : )


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