An open letter to the management of Interac (as well as Maxceed and Selnate)
November 5th, 2009
To whom it may concern (including Kevin Salthouse and Denis Cusack),
My name is Erich, and I am an executive of the ALT branch of Tokyo Nambu’s Foreign Workers Caucus. I worked for Interac from September of 2005 until February 2008, under the Osaka branch.
I am writing to clear up some misconceptions about health insurance in Japan that were evident in a couple of PDFs that were circulated from management at the beginning of October 2009.
The two PDFs in question are the “FAQ – Insurance System in Japan” and the one titled “Social Insurance Letter” dated October 1st, 2009. In these PDFs, you tell your ALTs that they are not eligible for Shakai Hoken if they work less than 29.5 hours.
This is not true.
You also tell them that the only alternative is to sign up for Kokumin Kenko Hoken and that they may have to pay up to two years of back enrollment.
The problem is that, since they are eligible for Shakai Hoken, it is the company that will have to pay the back enrollment (up to two years) into Shakai Hoken, after which the employee can be billed for their half of enrollment fees.
Let me give you some background information on how I know this.
If you take a look at our page:
You will see that there is a Nihon Terebi news report from earlier this year. I was interviewed here about my time with Interac and your use of illegal contracts with the BoE where I worked in Osaka. I was also at the meeting of Union Leaders and Government officials that was mentioned at the start of the broadcast. Part of the reason we called the meeting with these officials is to force them to give clarification, on record, on various features of Japanese insurance and labor laws.
One of the things we asked them point blank:
A) Does Shakai Hoken enrollment require one to be working more than 29.5 hours a week?
The answer was no. The 3/4 of full time rule (if 40 hours a week is considered full time, then 30 hours a week is 3/4ths of that) is an internal administrative guideline that they use to determine who to crack down on (the same way that a police officer might not pull over some one for going 5 kph over the speed limit but will definitely pull someone over for going 10 kph over the speed limit). The 3/4 rule, or 29.5 hours a week rule, is not even in the Shakai Hoken law.
B) We asked them clarify what the minimum work requirement is for Shakai Hoken enrollment.
Their response was that, there is no minimum work requirement of hours per week. Additionally, they also stated that they would never turn down any company that wanted to enroll their employees no matter how much the employees were making (which means in effect that Interac can not use “government requirements” as an excuse for not enrolling their ALTs in Shakai Hoken).
The 29.5 hour mark per week is a misconception, and has nothing to do with eligibility. It never HAS had anything to do with eligibility. So says the Japanese government.
In reality, only sole proprietorships (個人事業) with less than five members can decide not to enroll their employees into Shakai Hoken. The last time I was in an Interac office, I counted more than five employees, and your website claims that you are a 株式会社 (a kabushikigaisha or Limited Liability Corporation) so you are not a sole proprietorship. You have no excuse for not enrolling your ALTs, and with the new visa requirements, it looks like the Social Insurance office isn’t going to look the other way any longer.
Now, Interac has been around for over thirty-five years and they are rooted in every part of the country. I simply do not believe that every single manager, MC, and office worker, much less the owners of the business, are all too uniformly stupid to be ignorant of these facts. I have only been in Japan for for five years now, and I learned most of this three years ago. I can only assume that this leaves purposeful deception on the part of Interac to mislead it’s ALTs away from the insurance coverage that they have a legal right to (which would cost the company money) and drive them into a corporate partnership that they have with Interglobal/Global Health Insurance (I have heard it referred to as both names by Interac).
As evidence of such a deception, I would offer the “Health Insurance Disclaimer” that I was forced to sign upon the beginning of my employment with Interac. The disclaimer forces the ALT to agree that they “understand that it is my responsibility to finance my own personal health care requirements”, even though, according to Japanese law, you are responsible for half of every ALT’s insurance. Are you still forcing your teachers to sign this disclaimer? I certainly hope so because it will make great evidence in the Social Insurance office or a court of law.
I do not make these accusations lightly, but I just do not see how a company with a nationwide presence can be so completely wrong on this issue. If you can offer any other reasons that Interac as a whole is so uninformed on this issue, then I am very interested in hearing them.
What this leads to is a situation where someone is going to have to back enroll into the system. If the ALTs back enroll into Kokumin Kenko Hoken, then they will have to pay the back enrollment fees (up to two years worth of monthly dues). If, however, the ALTs are back enrolled into Shakai Hoken, then Interac will pay the back enrollment fees (up to two years) and they can attempt to get half of the back-enrollment money back from their ALTs later (perhaps you could work with Interglobal to get a refund for your ALTs since they were supposed to be on Shakai Hoken from the beginning anyway).
I personally pledge to you and to every Interac ALT that wants help challenging your statements found in these aforementioned PDFs that I will help them to the best of my ability. Trade law prohibits unions from representing those who are not official members, but I will personally help organize the legal team necessary for litigation against you should you refuse to pay for the back enrollment that any of our members face. I will encourage as many ALTs that I can to join their local union to force you into collective bargaining, and I will also encourage ALTs that are not interested in joining the union that they should apply for Shakai Hoken on their own. Anyone making an individual claim (a kakunin seikyu) will probably face a fimiliar pattern; they will be initially denied because of the internal 3/4 or 29.5 rule, but they will win their case on appeal as long as they have evidence of their employment (paystubs, bankbook records, contracts, recordings of conversations with management, etc).
I am also translating these PDFs that you sent out into Japanese in order to give it to the Social Insurance Agency; I think they may find it very interesting. Actually, if you happen to have a Japanese version already written that would really save me some time; feel free to send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My advice to you is this:
1) Own up to your mistakes
2) Start back enrolling everyone into Shakai Hoken in order to avoid litigation from union members and non-union members alike.
Interac has saved a lot of money over the years by not enrolling people in Shakai Hoken, and has probably made money by steering people into Interglobal/Global Health. I think now it is time for you to put those savings to work by back enrolling your hard working ALTs into the system that they should have been in all along. Don’t try to force them to face back enrollment into Kokumin Kenko Hoken alone when they have a legal right to be enrolled on Shakai Hoken.
I look forward to your reponse.
In solidarity with our union brothers and sisters throughout the country,
Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union
Social Insurance Agency