Berlitz And ECC Branches Negotiations Over Pay And Working Conditions: Round 1 (Berlitz)

General Union members at both Berlitz and ECC began collective bargaining in January (2019) over pay and working conditions. After a few rounds of bargaining, both ECC and Berlitz members will get a chance to vote on whatever is on offer at their union branch AGMs on April 14th.

Turning down the proposals could possibly lead to a strike at both companies and, at this point, there is no clear proposal from either company over pay. 

At ECC, members are negotiating for a 30 yen per-hour pay increase.

While ECC is offering all instructors a pay rise based on evaluation, union members at ECC are demanding an across-the-board minimum with premiums to be based on evaluation.

Since 2015, members have been demanding this kind of across-the-board pay rise and have won one each year except for 2017, when there were no pay increases for ECC teachers working at the main eikaiwa.

In fact, members settled for a 15 yen per-hour increase in 2018 when - for the first time ever - the union received an offer before a strike even needed to occur.

In the past, there had never been an offer until after we went on strike.

While pay is always an important issue for the ECC members, this year we are also dealing with ECC's attempts to dissuade members from applying for unlimited-term contracts by adding new conditions to the contracts of those who applied.

ECC has added language to their contracts which seeks to prevent pay increases, and adds a mandatory retirement age while at the same time forbidding any retirement allowances.

The union believes that the unilateral addition of new conditions into the contracts violates the spirit of the law, if not the actual wording itself.

In fact, ECC's argument in stating that there will be no pay increases is based on the idea that they cannot change working conditions once people go onto unlimited-term contracts - however, at the same time, they HAVE made unilateral changes.

Union members know that a company cannot stop a union from demanding and winning pay increases, as our rights to make demands and negotiate collectively are protected by both the Constitution and the Trade Union Law.

Our members also don't like underhanded attempt to dissuade employees for applying for unlimited-term contracts.

The retirement issue is the worst example of double speak that the union has seen in a long time.

ECC's argument for adding a retirement age is that seishain (regular employees) also have a retirement age.

While this is true, seishain employees also have a retirement allowance - something which ECC explicitly bans in the unlimited-term contracts for instructors.

The last round of bargaining before members vote is set for April 12th, and we'll have to wait and see if ECC undergoes any attitude adjustments before that time.

Berlitz members also have their final round of bargaining on April 12th and - just like at ECC - the employer is refusing to make an offer except for the regular yearly pay increase which is based solely on evaluation.

Over the last few years, members have been able to gradually increase and guarantee wages (regular contract teachers were able to lessen their workload for the same salary); but after last year's freeze in pay increases, members expect more than an evaluated pay increase this year.

As opposed to the situation as our members at ECC are, Berlitz members are not having to deal with attempts to undermine the unlimited-term contract system which started in 2018 after amendments to the Labour Contract Law.

Be that as it may, they still want to see things such as an increase in retirement age (and not the receiving pension age).

Berlitz instructors who reach 65 retire and are then rehired at a lesser rate even though they are doing the exact same job as before they retired.

The union is trying to stop this overt undercutting of wages.

April 12th will reveal a lot about how both companies wish to treat union members - and, just as importantly, how members will work to continue pushing for better wages and working conditions for everyone.

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