Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sent forth?

(Started one spring or summer several years back, never published:)

Last December, the haken-gaisha (staffing/outsourcing agency) I work for informed us that there was no way they could get our teaching contracts for a certain city in Osaka prefecture renewed in March. I don't know the specifics, and I should look it up, but the law apparently requires companies that hire temporary staff to periodically take breaks from hiring temporary staff from the same company. (And we are technically temps.)

If someone complains.

If no one complains, they can get away with using the same agency and the same personnel for three years at a stretch, and hire us at day rates after that. Or something. (Again, I'm not sure of the details. I'm not sure anyone is sure.)

For some reason, the teachers' unions have been complaining around here.

Note to the teachers unions: Who do you expect to replace us with from within your ranks? Seriously. We are working at slave wages, well, entry-level wages with no benefits. 

No insurance or retirement except the bare minimum required by Japanese law, no family allowances, no bonuses worth talking about (most I've had in a year is about 5 man-yen, about a tenth what the regular teachers with any tenure at all get).

Insurance. Medical checkup? Hah.

Shoot, we lose all wages one month a year and get shorted two, three, or four months a year because they don't "have work for us" then. And, yet, our contract says we are supposed to support the club activities. When? I'm pretty sure the regular teachers are getting regular wages in August, December, January, March, and April. 

I would love to support the club activities at my school, if I could afford it, if someone would pay my family's rent and food for my children during those weeks. And I'm sure the club interaction with the gai-jin would improve the attention of a lot of students in class. The hot-shot pitcher is going to pay more attention to the strange gai-jin in class, if that strange gai-jin gets out there shagging balls with the club every now and then.

The way things are, I can't afford to do that. Stretched too thin between the schools I'm assigned to when I'm on pay, no money to pay my bills during the student vacation time, when I would otherwise be working with the clubs and preparing lessons and materials for the year ahead, so that I wouldn't be stretched so thin.

And I would love to have real paid days off. 

Give me a break.

Yeah, there's a lot of anger here.

I'd be a lot less angry if there were real options that would allow me to work, if it were really possible for me to certify as a teacher in Japan. (Without borrowing six months worth of wages to go to school during summer.)

I've enjoyed working as an ALT/AET here in Japan for several years. The pay hasn't been great, actually below poverty line. (I'm not supposed to tell anyone about that. Talk about unconscionable clauses. But, hey, I can't afford to do this any more, so it won't matter in a just a few months more.)

But I've had a chance to get a look at Japanese society from the bottom up, and it gives me information I'll need if I try to go back to work here in the computer industry.

That was my original plan when I bailed from the computer industry -- I wanted to get some grasp on the underlying context, lack of which made it hard for me to work as part of the team. The problem, now, is going to get companies to look at me seriously as a computer professional again. Age, the gap in my record, and the competition hasn't gotten any easier.

And I find I like teaching in the public schools. (Not so much in the private juku. That's all too often little more than a racket, a confidence game. I think The Music Man has valid lessons to tell, but that was about things that were outside the confidence game, not about perpetuating the confidence game as a business model. And real juku don't run the confidence game. No racks of Seven Steps and such. Talk about confidence sometimes, but don't push it as a product.)

Maybe not so much anger as frustration. Anyway, it is not easy being an ALT or AET in Japan. And the rumours of great wages are just rumours, driven by the mis-perceptions of young single kids who do the job on holiday from college and have never had to pay real rent or plan for retirement or put kids through school. They are the same kids who think the entry level wages are great. Until they start trying to pay their school loans back on those wages.

It's a money-losing proposition, really.

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