Some clips of Flight of the Conchords. "Business Time" and "Jenny" are partcularly great. Two very talented and funny Kiwis!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Supernova?

• noun (pl. supernovae /sooprnovee, syoo-/ or supernovas) Astronomy a star that undergoes a catastrophic explosion, becoming suddenly very much brighter. Source The Oxford Dictionary.

So what on earth is actually going on. Your intrepid sleuth reported a few weeks back that rumblings of a stellar proportion were emanating from the land of the rising bum. Here are a few juicy pieces reported about the dodgy things happening at NOVA Japan.

This is what the Sydney Evening Herald reported last week......

Hundreds of Australian teachers of English in Japan should "start making contingency plans", the Government has warned, as erratic behaviour by language school colossus NOVA this week fuelled more predictions of an impending collapse.

Dozens of foreign staff at NOVA, which employs more than 1000 Australians, have reportedly been given eviction notices because the corporate giant has failed to pay the rent on their apartments, despite in some cases deducting it from their wages.

Japanese students were in tears outside the biggest NOVA school in Fujisawa, south of Tokyo, yesterday, after arriving to find the school had been evicted from its building for defaulting on rent.

Roughly 2000 Japanese staff had yesterday not been paid by NOVA for more than a week, and some young foreign employees have gone three weeks without wages, the foreign workers union said. Several teachers told the Herald they had been forced to borrow money to eat.

One 27-year-old from Melbourne, working in Chiba, said he had been forced to eat only rice and instant miso soup for a week while waiting for his pay, which arrived two weeks late: "Many of those were one-meal-a-day affairs. We're not loaded - a lot of us live week to week."

NOVA controls half of Japan's billion-dollar private English-teaching industry. It has saturated the country with 925 schools - but has recently admitted it will have to close more than 200 of them - and employs 5000 foreigners, more than any other Japanese company.

But a combination of overexpansion and corporate fraud has brought the giant chain to the brink of collapse. If it goes under, it will become the country's biggest corporate casualty, leaving thousands of foreigners jobless and without visas.

CEO Nozomu Sahashi was due to make an announcement yesterday, prompting rumours that NOVA could be partially bought out, but he has postponed the statement until next week. Company spokesman Yoshiyuki Kurabe denied that schools were being kicked out of their offices, and said that NOVA was "implementing measures to provide a stable environment for its students".

Even as the Australian Embassy in Tokyo was telling anxious callers to "start making contingency plans", NOVA was bringing out new teachers last week.

However, the Australian Asia Centre for Education Exchange released a terse statement on its website last Monday to say: "AACE no longer conducts recruitment on behalf of Nova Group in Japan."

Natasha Steele, a 25-year-old from Sydney who has been teaching for NOVA at Fujisawa for nine months, was kicked out of her apartment after the company failed to pay the rent.

Another teacher, 24-year-old Jerry Johnston from the US working in Takamatsu, said he had been given an eviction notice despite the fact NOVA had deducted the rental money from his wages. "Why hasn't the Japanese government intervened yet? It's been going on for weeks."

A spokesman for the National Union of General Workers said that "there are 400,000 students who might not get thousands of yen in tuition fees back. It would be like a bank going down, with no guarantees or security for the investors".

The background is well documented by Wiki ........
Concerns about refund policy
On February 14, 2007, the Japanese Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government conducted on-the-spot inspections at Nova Headquarters in Osaka and several other branches.[38] Officials said that several Nova schools failed to give full refunds to students who canceled their remaining lessons after paying in advance. Other clients said that Nova refused to accept unconditional cancellation of lessons, claiming the eight-day "cooling-off" period had expired, and had also deceived students by giving false information about their cancellation procedures.The Kyoto Consumers Contract Network NPO also expressed similar concerns.Reductions in the number of teaching staff since 2004 had created a situation where students found it increasingly difficult to schedule classes, precipitating a substantial increase in complaints.During the February office inspections the Ministry had discovered a memo in which Nova President Nozomu Sahashi stated there was no need to stop pushing sales despite difficulties meeting student reservations due to teachers shortages.Consumer centers nationwide have received more than 1,000 complaints and queries regarding Nova annually and The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan says it received some 7,600 complaints or inquiries about Nova's contract and cancellation policies from 1996 to March 2007. Under Nova's system, students buy points in advance to pay for their lessons. The larger number of points they buy in bulk, the smaller the per-class fees. The case taken to the top court involved a former student who had purchased 600 points at a rate of 1,200 yen per lesson. The student canceled the contract after using up 386 points, but Nova offered a refund based on a calculation that 300 points were bought. That meant it cost 1,750 yen per lesson. Nova said the value of the used points should be calculated as having been bought in smaller lots.
The Asahi Shimbun cites an example of a contract for 100 lessons, which would cost 230,000 yen in advance, for a per-lesson fee of 2,300 yen. A contract for 600 lessons would require an advance payment of 720,000 yen, or 1,200 yen per class. But if a person with a contract for 600 lessons cancels after taking only 100 classes, Nova applies the fee of 2,300 yen per lesson, and the student receives a refund of 490,000 yen. Such students say the contract for 1,200 yen per lesson should apply in these cases, which would mean a refund of 600,000 yen.

Delayed Wages
On September 14, 2007, Nova delayed wages to many of its teaching staff. Many teachers who had previously resigned, are still waiting for salary payments from the month of July.[citation needed] The NAMBU Foreign Workers Caucus in Tokyo estimated that up to 3,000 had not received their salaries on time. According the the Sydney Morning Herald, some teachers said they were owed thousands of dollars and others posted messages expressing the intent to quit. Nova President Nozomu Sahashi issued a statement saying it had not been possible to complete all the necessary operations to deposit instructor salaries'. As a result of Nova delaying the payment of salaries, the Sankei Shimbun reported that insecurity spread amongst both staff and students surrounding the possible closures of Nova branches. On September 20, 2007, one teacher who demonstrated outside of Nova's office in Osaka was quoted as saying 'I've already heard about the possible closures of 200 to 300 branches across the country. Nova no longer has the ability to pay the salaries of teachers and staff'. By September 25, 2007, the cash flow problems had not improved and Nova President Nozomu Sahahshi mortgaged 9 million shares of company stock (which included 1.18 million of his own personal shares) for the purposes of raising working capital. Nova Corp. said that they were not involved in planning the transaction.


Inspector McHammered of the Lard in Val Ferret, Switzerland

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