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Don't forget to follow us on Facebook. We have an English page as well as a Japanese page. If you are a member of the union there may also be a private group page for your union branch. Just ask us.

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Introducing: The Interac Mobile Phone Rental Service

You might already have the Interac Employment Contract, Interac Sub-Contracted Leopalace, and the Interac Rental Car; but are you (and your wallet) ready for the Interac Rental Mobile Phone that will "make your life easier in Japan by providing a top-tier phone easily, quickly, and with minimal hassle"?

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Hey, Joytalk: "Homework" Is Still "Work"

Joytalk, an eikaiwa-come-dispatch-company that has its tendrils in northern Japan, doesn't seem to understand what the word "homework" means. On June 14th (2017), a "Joytalk ALT Manager" sent out an "a very important email" that contained "information pertinent to the homework assignment" that they were asking their employees "to have completed for training". Notably lacking from that e-mail, however, were any details about how much overtime pay ALTs would receive for doing this additional work.

Wait, what's that? "Homework" is actually work? It sure is! The clue is in the name!

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Unions Are Not "Cheap Lawyers For Hire"

In Japan, unions have many unique rights compared to many of the countries where our members come from. One of those rights is the power to demand collective bargaining regardless of the number of members we have at a particular place of work.

That's right: even with just one member, an employer cannot not refuse negotiations with a labour union.

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Glassdoor.com Company Review Roundup (2017/06)


Because there are a lot of dispatch companies and English conversation schools across Japan, it can be difficult to keep track of which company is which, and just as challenging to form a general idea of how those companies stack up against each other.

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Members Speak Up; Kansai Gaidai Backs Down

On March 2, 2017, members of the shohei faculty at Kansai Gaidai were contacted by their director and told that they would have to teach extra classes. This came as no surprise as Gaidai usually has a shortage of teachers.

Although history has shown that they can expect to lose 1-3 faculty members on short notice each semester, Gaidai does nothing to prepare for this. Each semester, the faculty holds its collective breath, hoping they will not be among those saddled with extra classes.

However, thanks to the General Union, this semester was different.

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Why Is Amity Suddenly Recruiting Teachers From The Philippines?

Is Amity finding it difficult to recruit teachers who will simply accept what a manager says as gospel? Do they think that by hiring from the Philippines they will get workers who are too scared to ask for their rights to be respected?

It should go without saying that the General Union welcomes the idea of diversity in regards to the hiring of language teachers in Japan; such exposure to different people and culture can only enrich the experience of students.

However, in this case, we have to wonder about Amity's true motivations...

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Joytalk: A Cautionary Tale

"Joytalk" has become known to the General Union as a name that usually precedes a story of woe soon to follow. Indeed, whenever we see the word "joy" and "talk" together in the same sentence, it's usually a sign that someone is having a bad time.

We've mentioned them before in regards to contracts that forbid resignation, privacy concerns, forcing teachers to brave typhoons, and serious allegations of breaking immigration law.

Today, we have yet another cautionary tale which involves more accusations of immigration law shenanigans.

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Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before - Takatsuki BoE Update

So, a judge, the General Union, and the Takatsuki Board of Education walk into a court room (stop me if you think you've heard this one before). The judge turns to the Board of Education and says...

Well, actually, perhaps we need a bit of background information first.

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Is NOVA A Black Company?

Many of you may have seen the government's recent list of some of the worst "black companies" in Japan - a list in which it names and shames some of the most egregious of unrepentant labor law violators.

The General Union will actually be publishing a critique of this list in the coming weeks (is a list really the best they can do?) but, in the meantime, here is a small article based upon a discussion that was held by some of our members.

The conversation started with this comment: "In the grand scheme of things, NOVA probably isn't that bad. Nobody's committed suicide over their job, have they?"

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On Measures To Reduce Overtime And Work Related Suicides

Workaholic Japan is known for long office hours and stressed-out employees, but one company claims to have a cure: cats. Read more at the Japan Times.

 

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Something To Hide? Amity Refuses To Provide Copies Of Time-Cards

As a union, we recommend all workers keep accurate records of actual working hours - including copies of time cards if they are required to punch in.

People new to the country may not realize the necessity of doing this - especially at Amity, which operates a system that is reliant upon people working overtime (and this is particularly true in the case of new teachers).

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The General Union In The Japan Times: "Unions Can Offer A Hand"

Our venerable Union Chair, Dennis Tesolat, recently fielded a question from Japan Times writer Louise George Kittaka in regards to a labor issue in the eikaiwa (language school) industry.

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Are Public Schools Actually "Black Companies" In Disguise?

For all of the nobility of working as a teacher in public (or otherwise) schools, the reality of the situation is often entirely at odds with the otherwise romantic image that society paints of such an essential academic workforce. On April 28th, 2017, this couldn't have been made any clearer.

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Witnesses Soon to be Examined in West Japan Postal Service Article 20 Case!

Postal Industry Workers’ Union, Kinki
West Japan Article 20 Court Case NEWS FLASH #1

Based on Keidanren’s policy of “Japanese-style management for a new era”, announced in 1995, the government answered their call with an overall worsening of the system of labor laws. With labor costs then generally subject to cost-cutting pressure, irregular employment started growing in the mid 1990s. And now there are said to be 20 million irregularly-employed workers in this country. As a result, poverty and inequality have continued to grow for the past 20 years, becoming an unavoidable problem for society.

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James [English School] And The Giant [Lack Of Unemployment Insurance]?

The Unemployment Insurance System (koyou hoken; aka shitsugyou hoken) in Japan is fairly clear-cut: if you are unlucky enough to lose your job, you'll receive unemployment support benefits for a period of 90 - 330 days depending on age and length of enrollment.

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Doshisha Retreats On Non-Renewal Threats (5 Year Issue)

In the week beginning 6th of February 2017, part-time teachers (including General Union members) at Doshisha Iwakura Junior High School were summoned to individual meetings and informed that their contracts would not be renewed after next April (2018).

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Beware - Rant Ahead [OP-ED]

A friend came across this "worksheet" floating around on the Internet, followed by praise for how "amazing" the worksheet was and various lofty claims about its effectiveness at teaching certain concepts.

At first, we had a good old incredulous laugh about it - but then I started thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know).

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Are RENGO And The Japanese Government Sending More People To Their Death With New Overtime Law Proposals?

At first glance, the title of this article may seem sensationalist; but when you look at the new overtime law proposals that have been cooked up between the government, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), and RENGO (Japan’s most pro-company union federation) you have to wonder if such a claim is really all that hyperbolic.

Like so many laws that aim to “improve” things for workers, these proposals would codify levels of overtime that are already known to cause serious health problems and - in many cases - death.

Current overtime rules state that overtime must be limited to:

  • 5 hours per day
  • 45 hours per month
  • 360 hours per year

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Hokkaido International School Unionizes

Last year we were approached by teachers at Hokkaido International School looking to unionize. Given that the company is located in Sapporo, and we could not legally enforce collective bargaining in Osaka, we decided it was best to find a local union.

Sapporo General Union (unrelated to General Union) does not actively seek foreign members but when we approached them they decided to take up HIS. It helped that there were potential members fluent in Japanese.

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Hey! ECC 35-hour Contract Teachers: We Can Make ECC A Better Place To Work!

Our current union campaign is “Let’s PARiTY” and we're working on making sure all one year contract employees, staff and teachers, Japanese and foreign, have equal rights at ECC. 

Joining lets you be involved in spreading fairness at ECC, and making sure that no one is cheated in their work. 

PARiTY also means that we want the same rights to holidays, bonuses, and employment security that other “non-one-year-contract” workers at ECC enjoy.

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Nova Court Case Update - March 23

As you probably know, General Union members are suing Nova over the issue of Independent Contracts. These contracts rob instructors of paid leave, unemployment insurance, health & pension, and even workers accident compensation, amongst other things.

Previously, we had submitted evidence of how Nova controls Independent Contractors despite the company claiming that they do not have any control.

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"Let's PARITY!!" At ECC

"In twenty years of negotiating with employers all around Japan, I have never seen a company that holds their own employees - the economic engine of their own company - in such contempt. Most employers at least have the decency to pay lip service and offer hollow respect."

Dennis Tesolat (General Union Chair)

In January of this year, union members from the General Union and Tokyo Roso working at ECC all across Japan submitted demands to their employer to improve pay and other working conditions.

No company ever starts off with giving in to all union demands - but what we are currently witnessing at ECC is a full assault on the union and its members.

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GU Member sues Osaka Gaigo for pension damages - March 13

The first hearing in our member's case against Osaka Gaigo is set for March 13. Members and non-members alike are invited to attend. Our lawyers will also explain, in English and Japanese, the merits of the case, legal precedents, and how Osaka Gaigo broke the law.

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Employment Security (Conversion to Unlimited-Term Employment) : Two Emails from the Ministry

Some people may still be unaware, but in April of 2013 the Labor Contract Law changed so that “when, under repeated limited-term contracts, the total period of employment exceeds five years, the limited-term contract can be converted to an unlimited one upon the worker’s request”. In other words, workers who have been employed under multiple limited-term contracts for a total period of over five years  as of April 1, 2018, will become unlimited-term employees if they make a request to their company. (Please note this increases to ten years for some university positions that involve research.)

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Does The Punishment Fit The Behaviour?

As a union, we believe that certain employee behaviour can, at times, warrant justifiable discipline (and even dismissal) under a fair set of working rules. Even so, this case raises some moral questions.

Many of you will have heard of the Kwansaei Gakuin lecturer who made a comment about seeing if a student from Fukushima Prefecture would "glow in the dark" (allegedly after turning off the lights in the classroom, according to some media). Fukushima, as you probably well know, is still experiencing the effects of a nuclear meltdown and the negative stigma that media saturation / sensationalism has caused.

The so-called "joke" was certainly offensive and inconsiderate, especially considering the bullying that has occurred to students relocated from Fukushima to other areas of Japan - but was the punishment appropriate?

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From Reddit: "Don't Work Without A Visa (And Think Twice About Working For Joytalk)"

With April quickly approaching, it will soon be "that time of year" again - a time in which many foreigners dance to the tune of impending transfers, turnovers, and replacements while Boards of Education across Japan throw money around in the hope that dispatch companies will be the solution to the very problems that dispatch companies create (and so the prophecy fulfils itself).

Those who are caught up in this annual waltz often find themselves with a number of decisions to make and, often, the idiom of "any port in a storm" seems an apt descriptor: when one is having serious trouble, one must accept any solution, whether one likes the solution or not; when one wants to live in Japan by any means necessary, one must accept any job, regardless of the reputation of the company that they want to work for.

In such a situation, the question of "at what cost?" might not be all that important - but do the ends always justify the means?

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The Precarious Position of the Part-time University Instructor [OP-ED]

For more than 26 years, I have called Japan home in which most of that time I have worked as a part-time university English instructor at various institutions, settling at three Kansai area schools for the past ten years or so.

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Shunto 2017 is about to start--are you ready?

Schedule finalized for rally, discussion, general action, and more

Feb. 9 Shunto Rally

The start of the 2017 Shunto in Osaka will be Union Network’s ‘17 Shunto Rally. A talk will be given on “The Background to the Movement Demanding the Resignation of South Korea’s President” by Kim Mitsuo (Research-Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan).

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