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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

Firm reneges on promised jobs for Nova teachers


By KANAKO TAKAHARA and KAZUAKI NAGATA
Staff writers

Former Nova Corp. teachers got much sadder tidings than they had hoped for on Christmas Eve, and much of the bad news came long distance.

G.education Co., which took over some of the failed language school chain's business, will hire fewer former Nova teachers than it had earlier said and may even slash its ranks in the future, the Nagoya-based firm announced Monday in a press statement.

G.education, a part of G.communication Co., is facing an uphill battle in reopening classes at former Nova schools.

G.education had earlier pledged to hire all foreign and Japanese staff who had been left in the lurch with Nova's failure, if they wanted to work at the company. But Monday's statement effectively retracted this offer.

G.education has hired 1,447 Japanese and foreigners who worked at Nova, which filed for court protection from creditors in October.

The court refused to apply the corporate rehabilitation law and G.education was selected to take over part of Nova's business last month. But there are still about 800 foreign teachers who are either applying for jobs or were promised positions starting next month, although formal contracts had yet to be concluded, the firm said.

The number of applicants is ballooning daily, the company said.

G.education will hire about 200 after conducting interviews starting Tuesday, adding that job promises for many teachers will probably be canceled.

"To run the Nova business in a healthy manner, we decided to stop hiring new staff," G.education President Takashi Ono said in Monday's statement.

G.education hired former Nova teachers basically based on the one-year contractual conditions they had with Nova.

"But if we become overstaffed in the future, we may not be able to renew the contracts," Ono said.

G.education has asked other foreign-language schools and related organizations to hire former Nova teachers, noting there are about 500 jobs in Japan and Asia.

It also plans to hire more at G.communication and its group firms. Many of the 800 foreign teachers returned to their home countries for the holidays with ¥150,000 provided from G.education for travel expenses, and the firm broke the bad news while they are still away.

G.education has so far taken over 126 of some 600 former Nova outlets.

Although the company revised its initial goal of opening 200 to 250 branches, that has become a tall order for G.education. This is due in part to Nova Corp.'s failure to pay the rent for many of its outlets for months, G.education said.

G.communication also said it will not hold "satellite classes" using teleconferencing equipment in Osaka, where Nova was based, but instead will consider offering ex-Nova teachers who have returned home from Japan jobs at teleconferencing branches in Los Angeles, Australia, Ireland, China and other locations.

G.communication said it made the announcement because it planned to start interviewing applicants for 200 openings on Christmas Day.

Its public relations department declined further comment on the timing of the announcement.

Many former Nova teachers, who received the notification by e-mail, were upset by the announcement.

"I felt like it was just another lie, another big disappointment," Natasha Steele, who worked for Nova for 10 months and was seeking to be re-employed, said in a telephone interview with The Japan Times.

Steele, who returned to Australia for Christmas and was flying back to Japan on Thursday, said the company had told her to be ready to start work Jan. 10, though they didn't tell her where to show up.

Although she had her hopes up, she was also skeptical.

"I think a lot of people were hesitant (about) whether they would be able to be re-employed or not," she said. "We had to believe the company as much as possible because we wanted to regain a sense of security as soon as possible."

National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, a Tokyo-based labor union whose ranks include many ex-Nova teachers, also decried G.education's sudden announcement.

"It was all very sudden. It was a big shock to people," said Catherine Campbell, who is currently in charge of the Nova case at the union. "They don't know what they are going to do."

According to Campbell, teachers were notified of G.education's decision last Friday via e-mail.

She criticized G.education for breaking its promise and for the timing of its bad news, coming when many job aspirants had returned to their homes overseas for Christmas.

They had hoped to come back to Japan and work, but now that the jobs they were expecting are unlikely to materialize, they may find themselves unable to pay the rent for their apartments full of their belongings, she said.

Yujiro Hiraga, president of National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, said the union will seek collective bargaining because G.education has not provided a clear explanation for its decision.



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