In January 2007, the General Union conducted a survey among the Boards of Education of all cities, towns and villages in Osaka Prefecture to assess the employment conditions of Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs). Over the past 5 years the boards have moved away from direct hiring or using the JET program, and outsourced ALT positions to private companies. The GU survey confirmed that direct employment – usually via the JET program – is now only to be found in the smaller towns and cities of Osaka Prefecture. More alarming however, is that 23 cities and towns replied that they were using Ukeoi contracts (subcontracting). If this is indeed the case, it is a violation of the Law for Securing the Proper Operation of Worker Dispatch Undertakings and Improved Working Conditions for Dispatched Workers (hereinafter ‘Worker Dispatch Law’), while only 3 cities answered that they were using Haken (Worker Dispatch) contracts (see chart).
Cities and towns using improper contracts is not a new issue in Osaka Prefecture. In September 2004 the Osaka Labour Bureau provided guidance to all boards of education that using Ukeoi for ALT positions was inappropriate. On February 17, 2005, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Technology (MEXT) also instructed boards nationwide to ensure that contracts and actual conditions for outsourced ALT positions met the requirements of the Worker Dispatch Law. An ALT position is one that fundamentally involves team teaching, with the ALT working in an assistant role. MEXT also strongly believes that for proper classroom control and management it is necessary for ALTs and main teachers to work together. The Ministry even clearly advised school boards that the kind of contract entered into is irrelevant; when the school or board gives work directives, as in the case of an ALT, this falls under the Worker Dispatch Law.
BoEs often have no idea of the working conditions of ALTs and are surprised to hear how little the ALT actually receives. On the other hand, the Worker Dispatch Law is designed to protect the worker. In order to dispatch workers legally, a company needs to apply for a dispatch license from the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare. The Dispatch Undertaking is required by the Worker Dispatch Law to provide details of enrollment in Health and Pension insurance and unemployment insurance, as well as appointing a contact person to deal with workplace issues at the receiving institution. There are also limits to the number of years a position can be dispatched: a maximum of between one and three years, except in the case of seasonal workers. In the case of ALTs, BoEs would find it necessary to revert to direct hiring.