Saturday, September 15, 2007

Are We Bankrupt?

A while back I wrote a post about all the troubles that have befallen my company since I returned to Japan 6 months ago.

Well, the troubles continue.

A month or so ago a student said to me, "I read in the newspaper that your company couldn't even pay its staff. I was so shocked."

I spit out my coffee all over the desk. (Well not really. Actually I'm not allowed to drink coffee while teaching a lesson, but it was still that kind of moment.) "What? They can't pay us?"

"No, they can't pay the Japanese staff," the student said. (Meaning the 3 [now 4] Japanese girls who book the lessons and talk to the students. See previous post).

"But the foreign teachers are okay?"

"Yeah, only the Japanese staff isn't going to get paid."

"Oh, well that's all right then."
After all, Japanese people are taught from a very young age to put their own needs subservient to the needs of the company. The Japanese staff would understand this. But they would never be so foolish as to not pay their foreign staff on time though...that would be an uproar.

Well, guess what...
I went to the bank Friday to take out money so I could pay my overdue phone bill. (Once again my cell phone service had been shut off because I was late in paying the bill). And the ATM machine just kept spitting my card back at me without giving me any money. Perhaps it was time to get a new card.

I arrived at work to see a fax notice from the president posted on the bulletin board. "Regrettably it has not been possible to complete the payment on time. We will pay the money on the 19th instead."

Unbelievable. If there was some problem and they couldn't pay the money by that day I might understand, but the 19th was almost a week away (payday was supposed to be the 14th). And most of the teachers at our company live paycheck to paycheck. And they couldn't even give us a couple days notice to let us know this would be happening?

Fortunately I was able to borrow money from Shoko (or depending on which way you look at it, borrow some of my own money back from our joint account). But there are a lot of foreigners throughout Japan who are going to be strapped for cash over the next few days.

My company is the largest private English teaching company in Japan (and in Asia, teaching English is big business) so this effects a lot of people. If you look in the right places, this crisis is already thoroughly documented on internet and in the blogosphere. For example my co-worker Amy wrote this piece on her blog. Also this article here, and this article here.

If you look through some of these web pages, you can see the gloom and doom scenarios beginning already. The company is going to go belly up before the end of the year, they are not going to be able to pay their staff, and there are going to be thousands of foreign teachers stranded in Japan without a job and without money to buy a plane ticket home.

On the other hand the higher ups in the company are claiming that this month is going to be the last hard month while they are still selling off assets and consolidating branches. After this month everything will be reorganized and it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

Personally I tend to agree with a friend's opinion, who said, "the company is never just going to disappear. People have been saying they will go bust for years, but they provide a desired service to the community, and they have too many assests and employees. Someone will buy them out before they fold up completely."

We'll see what will happen in the coming months. At any rate, the part of me that enjoys watching a train wreck is thinking whatever happens it should be an interesting next 6 months.

Link of the Day
via This modern world
This is from a British polling company working in Iraq:

In the week in which General Patraeus reports back to US Congress on the impact the recent ‘surge’ is having in Iraq, a new poll reveals that more than 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have been murdered since the invasion took place in 2003.

Previous estimates, most noticeably the one published in the Lancet in October 2006, suggested almost half this number (654,965 deaths).

These findings come from a poll released today by O.R.B., the British polling agency that have been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,461 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-

Q How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003.
The Los Angeles Times writes about it here. Note the results are in line with Just Foreign Policy’s attempt to extrapolate from the second Lancet study.

And from the same website
Two points to add to Jon’s post, directly below this one, on the possible Iraqi death toll:
One: when random Americans were polled a few months ago by the Associated Press, the median guess for the death toll was under ten thousand. So there’s a fair chance that however bad you may think Iraq is, you might want to multiply it by one hundred. We are talking about a possible literal megadeath. On our watch.

Two: predictably, the new estimate has already been dismissed out of hand by the Pentagon, as was last year’s Lancet study. But the Lancet study’s methodology is actually widely accepted; even John Zogby said it was “as good as it gets.” And the new poll, conducted by a respected firm whose clients include the Conservative Party, the Bank of Scotland, and Morgan Stanley — not exactly a bunch of raving lefties — is (as Jon notes) simply consistent with the Lancet study.

1 comment:

Whisky Prajer said...

Yikes! That sounds like tough sledding. Hope things go well for you.