News

General Union And NUGW Tokyo Nambu Enter Joint Negotiations At British Council

Here's a follow up on our recent successes at ECC where the General Union joined forces with members at our sister union NUGW Tokyo Roso.

Union members at British Council are locking arms across unions to win improvements in their working conditions.

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Osaka Shoin: Harassment By Camera?

Along with all the other issues that the General Union is currently dealing with, here's a quick recap to remind people of the story with Osaka Shoin Women's University up until now.

The government introduced a new law: if you've worked for five years, the school has to give you a contract with no end date. In response, Osaka Shoin freaks out and introduces a five-year employment limit just to avoid the law

This is illegal.

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Doshisha Checkoff Begins

The new school year has begun, and so has our new checkoff agreement at Doshisha Kori. From here on in Japanese and foreign members alike at Doshisha will be able to have their dues directly deducted from their salary. In the coming months we will be rolling the system out at other Doshisha schools.

Why is dues checkoff important?

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ECC Strike Postponed


ECC STRIKE POSTPONED


ECC branch members are currently considering an offer from the company.


Mission Impossible - The New School Year [OP-ED]

If you choose to accept this mission you will teach six 1st grade JHS classes.

The mission is to find the five other people all teaching this course.

To make it that more difficult, we will not give you any of the names of the people you are working with. 

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Gaba: Instructors Views On The New Schedule Submission System

The General Union has sent correspondence to Gaba about the new schedule submission system, and will hear back on April 16th.

In the meantime, here are a few of the many responses we received from instructors to our anonymous instructor survey:

"Gaba is still enticing new instructors to join the company with the promise of flexibility in their schedules, which is no longer the case."

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Injuries And Compensation At Gaba

Below, you'll see a Gaba lesson booth as it was on March 11th, 2011. It is now seven years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Several Kanto area learning studios were damaged that day.

Instructors who were at Gaba during and after the disaster will no doubt remember the disorganization at the company, the lack of preparation, and the fact the company decided it was a good idea to open on March 12th.

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Gaba Instructor Schedule Survey

Instructors at Gaba have been expressing discontent with the recent changes to Gaba's scheduling system.

Many Instructors work at Gaba largely because of the flexibility it offers, but that flexibility has been dramatically decreased in recent months.

A large number of instructors have spoken to the union expressing their view that flexibility is decreasing.

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Latest Nova Court Update - February 20

Here is the latest update on our court case against Nova and their illegal "independent contractor" system. Read more about the case lodged in 2016.

Tuesday, February 20, was a full day of testimony with Mike testifying on the union's side and a foreign manager testifying on behalf of Nova.

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Osaka Gaigo's "Argument"

Back in early 2017, the General Union helped one of our members sue Osaka Gaigo Senmon Gakko over financial losses due to their failure to enroll him in Health & Pension Insurance (shakai hoken).

Although the case is currently ongoing, we thought you might be interested in what "The Gaigo" is claiming.

You can read it all in the pdf link, but here are some choice highlights...

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Harassed By A Student At Gaba?

As we previously mentioned ("Gaba Corporation Meets General Union's Demands - Client Blocking Procedure Published"), Gaba has recently published its (2013) guidelines on blocking clients who have been involved in harassment.

Although we already provided these instructions in our previous article, they bear repeating because the guidelines are not easy to find without a determined search of the intranet, or without someone physically being able to show them to another instructor in person.

If you work for Gaba and need to locate these guidelines, here's what to do.

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Ritsumeikan University Lands Itself In Trouble

In Japan, companies and schools must follow certain procedures for any overtime to be allowed under the law.

The Labour Standards Law requires that a workers’ representative, elected by a majority of ALL workers (not just those who vote), sign off on an overtime agreement. This means that the elected representative then has the power to permit (or refuse) overtime to take place. Without the proper election of this workers’ representative, any work over 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week is NOT allowed.

In reality, the representative is often a stooge put forward by management to meet legal requirements - as what worker would have the audacity to say no and block all overtime?

Not only would the representative be in strife with their employer, but most likely also with coworkers who rely upon a certain amount of paid overtime to make ends meet.

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Osaka Gaigo's Got Money To Burn! (But Not For Union Members)

When you claim you don't have money, the last thing you want to do is involve yourself in frivolous law suits when there are many more expensive problems to settle.

Not Osaka Gaigo, though!

They claim poverty while dealing with two (and maybe more!) lawsuits.

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Do The "Six Minute NOVA Hustle"

In case you're wondering, this "hustle" isn't a kind of dance routine cooked up as a crazy PR stunt. No, it's very much the other kind of hustle. The bad kind.

Be that as it may, you probably know all of the moves already.

The NOVA hustle goes like this:

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ECC Members Prepare For Action

It seems that the entire language industry has gone into merger mania! KDDI will buy AEON; G Academy will be merged into NOVA Holdings; GABA will merge with their parent company's COCO Juku; and Berlitz is already a Bennesse company. ECC appears to be the last family-owned national chain.

You may think that this news means that we need to back off from ECC and give them some room so they can change to meet the challenges of the new industry - but it's exactly because ECC needs to change that our fight is more necessary than ever.

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Gaba Corporation Meets General Union's Demands - Client Blocking Procedure Published

sexual harassmentThe General Union has been raising the issue of harassment of instructors by clients with Gaba since 2013, and this has not been an easy process.

Instructors reported a number of cases of sexual harassment by clients, and how they were dealt with poorly by Gaba management.

There was a desire to ignore harassment and to encourage instructors to put up with it.

As recent news stories have shown, this is unfortunately common in many organizations all around the world - particularly when there is money to be made.

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Gaba And Coco Juku To Merge

Earlier this month, the Nikkei newspaper ran an article about an upcoming merger between Gaba and Coco Juku. These are both English conversation schools owned by Nichii Gakkan. Gaba was purchased by Nichii Gakkan in 2011, and Coco Juku was founded in 2012. Although both currently teach English to children and adults alike, Coco Juku has a focus on group lessons.

According to the Nikkei article, from next year, the companies will shift their focus: Gaba will focus on teaching lessons to adults, while Coco Juku will focus on lessons for children.

It remains to be seen what this will mean for instructors at either of the conversation schools.

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Sexual Harassment From Clients At Gaba Corporation

Sexual harassment from Gaba clients is an issue that the General Union has been concerned about for years now. We have raised it with Gaba both in negotiations and correspondence.

The problem has even received notice in the press, with several articles appearing in the Japan Times.

A major problem is that Gaba does not provide clear training for instructors on this issue.

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Kindai - Response To The General Union

Here is Kindai's response to our questions regarding compliance with the new Labor Contract Renewal Act and demands relating to demolition and rebuilding.

The good news is that we have secured lockers and a teacher's lounge to replace those lost in Building 11, and their answer that "part-time teachers do not have a research element to their job" means they can request unlimited term contracts after working five years from April 1st, 2013.

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Improvements For Hourly-Paid Employees At The British Council

General Union members working at the British Council will soon start seeing big improvements to their working conditions after a new collective agreement was recently signed between the union and the organisation.

Hourly-paid employees of the British Council have to deal with numerous labor problems including late contracts, a lack of notice for non-renewal of contracts, and contract periods that are unreasonably short.

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Osaka Gaigo Court Case Update (September 14, 2017)

Court cases never seem to proceed at the same speed or level of excitement as seen on television shows like Perry Mason, LA Law, or even Judge Judy. This is especially true in Japan.

The first hearing of our case against Osaka Gaigo was way back in March... and yet, we are still only at the phase of exchanging documents and submitting evidence. We are hoping that official testimony will begin before the closing of the year, but who knows?

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Berlitz Update (2017/09/15): Progress In Talks

Just recently, we let you know that our Berlitz Branch had taken a strike vote.

The intention was never to strike immediately, but to show the company the seriousness of our intent to protect the incomes of Pay Per Lesson teachers, as some instructors have experienced losses of over 100,000 yen per month.

The union has demanded that steps be taken to protect and guarantee the salaries of instructors.

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"GU Helped Me Win Tenure"

We received a message this week. It's nice to hear kind words but better yet, it was good to hear that our education campaign about the "5 year rule" helped someone to better their work conditions.

***

Dear GU - Although I'm not a member (I live in Tokyo) I have been following your posts for a while. This is my sixth year of a one-year contract BUT I'm fortunate as my school has applied for a non-regular teaching license (教育職員特別免許) for me (awarded on Sep 1!) and plan to give me a tenured position from next year. I partially attribute this to your posts, which let me know what questions to ask as well as background knowledge on labor laws. Thanks a million. In the near future, I would like to make a small donation to show my support for what you do. Once things settle down, you could let me know how to do that. Keep up the heroic deeds!

 

Osaka Shoin And "The 5 Year Rule" (Part 1)

Teachers with limited-term (usually one year) contracts make up a large proportion of the teachers at universities, colleges, and high schools across Japan.

In 2013, an amendment to the Labor Contract Act, aimed to give increased security to workers on limited term contracts.

Article 19 of the act states that after renewal of such a contract, further renewals shall not be refused without reasonable grounds.

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Emergency Drills At Gaba

Over recent years, the General Union has repeatedly raised the issue of holding emergency drills with Gaba.

In July, 2017, the union asked the company when it would conduct drills at all of the Learning Studios in the company.

However, as of the time of writing, the Akasaka, Akabane, Omotesando, Shinbashi-Shiodome, Seijo, Futakotamagawa and Kashiwa Learning Studios had not yet had drills, whereas some other Learning Studios have had several drills.

The company replied that it intended to hold drills at all studios.

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Osaka Shoin And "The 5 Year Rule" (Part 2)

Original title: The Osaka Labor Bureau's comments on avoiding conversion to unlimited-term contract

Part 1 here

To better understand this topic, you should know the background of this situation. In short, the union strongly believes (and has evidence) that Osaka Shoin are dismissing (via non-renewing) employees at both the high school and university to avoid granting unlimited term contracts as required by the new “5 year rule”.

Collective Bargaining is ongoing, but the university has yet to retract the dismissals.

As part of our fight to save teachers’ jobs, the General Union has lodged a complaint at the Osaka Labor Bureau, and they have since visited the school to offer “guidance”.

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Berlitz Members Vote Yes In Strike Vote

With an overwhelming majority, a vote to enter dispute mode with Berlitz has carried this last week of August. Strikes, or other dispute acts, will not happen immediately. We will continue to negotiate with Berlitz about salary guarantees and job security for "Per Lesson" instructors in good faith. While progress is still being made action of any kind is on hold.

Taking the decision to strike or enter a dispute is never taken lightly. We ask other union members to support the Berlitz members.

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Berlitz Instructors Ready To Blow! Members Demanding Strike Vote!

Berlitz Japan is the only major language school in Japan which employs (what it calls) "Paid Per Lesson Instructors" (PL).

Unlike normal part-time workers who have set working hours (just reduced from a full-time contract), these "PL" instructors have no set working hours and are informed the night before about the next day’s schedule.

The union has complained to Berlitz that these contracts are not allowed under the Labour Standards Law because there are no set hours.

Our complaints are not based on some kind of technical legal issues; they are concretely based upon the problems that you are about to read about.

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Board of Education Illegally Denies Childcare Leave

Recently, the General Union received an e-mail from a worried JET at a Kanto area Board of Education. Married, the teacher is expecting her first child later in the year.

When she approached the Board of Education to ask about maternity and childcare leave, she was happy to learn that she could take maternity leave and that the Board of Education would help with documentation so that she could receive maternity leave allowance through shakai hoken (Employee Health and Pension Insurance; EHPI).

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Your Company Is Not Your Friend [OP-ED]

I'm loathe to admit that, when I came to Japan nearly a decade ago, I - like so many others (everyone, perhaps?) - was one of those people who had bought into the idea that companies in Japan cared about their employees.

I remember reading a gushing article about how Japanese managers treat their employees like "flowers" that needed to be "watered and cared for" in order to "make the company grow" - a unique blending of social harmony and corporate culture with an understanding that people, not profits, were the drives and gears that kept everything running smoothly.

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