News

Sexual Harassment From Clients At Gaba

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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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.

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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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Working Without A Visa? "Run. Don't Walk. Run Away."

Spotted over on the r/teachinginjapan sub-reddit, here's another anecdote of a company attempting to coax a naive foreigner with the usual assurances that they'll handle all of that pesky immigration nonsense AFTER said foreigner comes to Japan and starts working for them (illegally).

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GABA - New System Training

In the lead-up to the new system in July, Gaba staff asked instructors to sign a "letter of understanding" about training for the new computer system. It was not clear whether this was mandatory or not.

As the company had previously tried to force instructors to do unpaid training, the General Union asked the company to clarify this. Gaba stated that signing the letter of understanding was not mandatory, nor was doing the training.

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Follow us on Facebook!

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.

 

Want to know how we improve workplaces? Read the 2016-2017 full report!

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Please download and read our 2016-2017 activity report covering over thirty workplaces. 

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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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