THOUSANDS of Australians in Japan face the prospect of no jobs and no accommodation amid growing fears the country’s largest English conversation school is on the brink of collapse.
Nova, the bulk of whose 5000-strong foreign workforce is Australian, might go bankrupt as early as November, Tokyo-based business consultant Ken Worsley said.
The company’s Australian head office, in Brisbane, has stopped recruiting and warned those already offered positions against going to Japan.
“We strongly suggest all applicants delay their departure until the situation in Japan becomes clearer,” Nova Brisbane spokesman Simon Thomas said.
Nova, already reeling from a $US45 million ($50 million) loss between April and June, is experiencing a disastrous cash-flow situation, with a flood of students cancelling lesson packages and demanding refunds.
The company’s public image in Japan was shattered in June when it was slapped with a government penalty for false advertising.
Late salary payments and lack of communication from top Nova management have rankled its mostly foreign staff.
A 31-year-old Brisbane woman who works in Nova middle management in Osaka said teachers and students had no confidence in the company.
“Basically, middle management is not being provided with any information as to why we’re being paid late,” she said.
She said 300 eviction notices had been served to teachers living in Nova-sponsored apartments, with the company deducting rents from their salaries but not passing them on to landlords.
Despite the company’s woes, Nova’s Osaka office this week approved eight Sydney instructors for positions in Japan.
However, Mr Thomas said about 30 prospective recruits from Australia and New Zealand had been warned against accepting positions.
“We did have some people who arrived in Japan last month and they were all told we thought it was in their best interests not to go, and if they were to go they should take extra funds and be prepared for the worst,” he said.
“There are still some people, who, despite our very strong warnings, have still decided to go as scheduled in October.”
Louis Carlet, of Japan’s National Union of General Workers, said Nova employees faced a six-month wait to recover lost wages if the company went bankrupt.
Nova’s teacher salaries, which range from about $33,000 a year, are paid monthly in retrospect.
Australian-based staff are among those yet to be paid this month’s salary.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the effect of Nova’s financial difficulties on Australians was “a private legal matter for the parties involved.
However, consular officials could help those affected contact relatives, friends and lawyers in Japan, he said.
Nova claims a 46 per cent share of Japan’s lucrative English conversation school market but has posted multi-million dollar losses for the last three years.