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March 05, 2003

Nova Cited for Rights Violation

A complaint has been filed with the Osaka Bar Association over a contract clause that bans fraternisation between teachers and students at the Nova English conversation school chain. Robert Bisom, 59, and a 46-year-old Australian former employee have called for the removal of the clause, which states teachers "should not have a relationship with customers outside the workplace" saying it is racial discrimination and an invasion of privacy. Yukitomo Ishimatsu, a Nova director, said that the contract clause is "necessary to prevent trouble between foreign teachers and Japanese students who have different cultures," adding "I can't believe that they are saying there is racial discrimination, when it is our policy only to employ foreigners as teachers." According to the complaint, so far six teachers have been fired for violating the rule. The Australian complainant is one of the six, and he filed a suit last December asking for his reinstatement. Bisom, who is Nova Branch Chairman of the General Union, has also petitioned the Osaka Prefectural Labor Relations Commission claiming that Nova denied him a pay raise because of his union activities. These and other restrictions on teachers' behaviour at Nova -- such as the planned implementation of drug testing several years ago -- have been well known for some time and have contributed to the company's poor reputation among foreign teachers in general.

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