For those of you that did not get the memo, Interac is about to go through some big changes. I have heard two very different announcements on the subject. From Kevin Salthouse, we all have this PDF file stating that Interac will be going through a “new phase of operations” and that this is just a “reorganization”. The General Union in Osaka however, has uncovered more details that point towards a new aquisition and a buyout by Advantage Partners, a company that describes its own business model as “Direct private equity investment via start-up and acquisition”.
It appears that Interac as we know it may be completely taken over and dissolved, although we may not know for sure until October first. Interac recently lost its right to do business with Osaka prefecture BoEs when it was found guilty of an Unfair Labor Practice against the General Union and of interfering in union business. Our members that have sued Interac have also won several court cases, meaning even more financial punishment.
When I originally heard of the name change and the association with bankruptcy, I was a bit skeptical. I thought Interac may have been changing names to avoid paying the damages to union members and as a way to get around the recent ruling that prevents them from doing business in Osaka prefectural BoEs. This certainly would not have been out of character for them; they have for years had a second name, Maxceed, that they used to double-bid BoEs across the nation. They would submit one bid as Interac, and one bid as Maxceed, and shuffle their ALTs between Maxceed/Interac contracts as needed. I was hired as an ALT for Interac in 2005, and was placed in a city where I was expected to lie to the BoE and tell them that my company was called “Maxceed”. The contract between the BoE and the dispatch company said “Maxceed”. My contract with the people in the same office, with the same employees with a different phone number said “Interac”. Also, in the past year, ALTs have complained to us that their time is split between “Maxceed” and “Interac” so that Interac can pretend that the ALT has two part time jobs, instead of a full time job and have an excuse to avoid giving the ALT full time benefits. If Interac is going to be dissolved, these kinds of practices never favored the ALT’s working conditions, and they will not be missed.
Whether Interac will be going fully under or whether things will really just be “reorganized”, my personal concern, shared among my fellow union members, is centered on the stability of employment for the foreign teachers in Japan. I am urging every ALT in Interac/Maxceed/every-other-dispatch-company-in-Japan to band together, unionize and fight back to improve working conditions for yourselves and for the people who will want to come to Japan and teach here in the future. Demand to be directly hired! Every Interac/Maxceed contract I have ever seen has either been
1) illegal according to the The Ministry of Education guidelines concerning proper dispatch methods or
2) has enough clauses in it that violate Labor Standards/Trade Union Law that the whole thing is null and void.
If you unionize and claim your right to be directly hired, the BoEs will not be able to ignore you. I have seen it myself; the when I was in Osaka and a member of the General Union, we forced my BoE to direct hire, and the ALTs there are in a much better position today than they were in 2005.
If you are tired of the instability of your job, of getting reduced or no pay for March or August, of getting penalized for being sick, then you should force the BoE to take responsibility. Unionize, and demand direct employment and the full benefits that you are entitled to under the law.