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.

In addition, Article 19 of the act states that, when a limited-term employment contract is renewed repeatedly for a total period of over five years (from April 2013), the contract can be converted to an unlimited contract if the worker so requests it.

In short, after five years, the worker can choose to have their contract converted to an unlimited contract or continue as previously.

The employer cannot turn down the request for an indefinite contract.

In many companies, this conversion to unlimited-term contracts is now underway - as well as correction of disparities between regular (SEIKI) and irregular (HISEIKI) workers - in accordance with Article 20 of the Labor Contract Act.

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From The Ministry Of Education, Culture, Sports, Science And Technology: Document Dated December 9th, 2016, Survey And Guidance

You can read the whole document at: http://gu.generalunion.org/Ministryemail1.pdf

"Termination of employment prior to the limit for requesting an unlimited contract, with the purpose of avoiding the unlimited conversion rule, cannot be called desirable in reference to the spirit of the law. If cases come to light where employment has been terminated for the purpose of avoiding the unlimited conversion rule, we will engage in the proper education and guidance via the Prefectural Labor Bureaus."

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The Osaka-Based Shoin Gakuen Educational Trust Plans Illegal Contract Termination And Lay-Offs To Avoid The Provisions Of The Law

While understanding the law and their legal obligation to convert to unlimited term contracts, the board of trustees of Shoin Gakuen is attempting to evade the new law by terminating contacts before teachers reach the 5 years.

They decided on this course in April, 2017, without even attempting to justify it with legally reasonable grounds.

Teachers were told that "if you accept our request of a six-month lay-off by the 2017 fiscal year, your employment in the 2018 fiscal year will be considered positively".

If there is a six month break in continuous employment, workers lose the right to an unlimited contract.

The notes on implementation of the new law forbid employers from introducing such measures after the law was passed, in an attempt to evade.

The lay-offs cause considerable hardship to teachers,  as well as causing problems with visa renewal.

In addition, changing teachers in the middle of the academic year can have an adverse effect on the quality of education.

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Shoin's "Lay-off" Notification

A letter informing teachers of lay-offs stated that "you need to take forced furlough at least once out of four semesters following the new employment policy of Educational Institution Shoin Gakuen" and "if you do so, your employment in the 2018 fiscal year will be considered positively".

This is exceptionally bold and explicit.

Teachers who did not agree to this lay-off have been told that their employment contract will be terminated at the end of the 2017 fiscal year.

The General Union, upon receiving this information from teachers, submitted demands for collective bargaining over the issue.

This was held on June 27th, 2017.

In this session, Shoin was so confused that they claimed that "the contract with part-time teachers is renewed every 3 years".

Nobody present from the trust could answer the union’s questions regarding the related law, contract, or working regulations, that this five-year limit was based on.

On May 24th, June 5th, and July 10th, 2017, this Institution sent outrageous answers to the General Union’s demands, stating that "we have no plans to give these workers unlimited-term contracts", "we will not have a collective bargaining with an "outside" union on university premises", and "we will not discuss the contract for the next fiscal year".

They also refused to provide the union with any information about the working regulations or submission of their overtime work agreement.

The General Union – a legally recognized trade union - has a Shoin branch and had submitted a list of union members.

However, Shoin Gakuen has not made working regulations or the overtime work agreement publicly accessible to employees, even though they have a legal obligation to do so.

We believe this is a violation of the Labor Standards Act and Trade Union Act.

The union plans to report the issue to both the ministry of Labor and Welfare and the ministry Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

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Recordings Of What Teachers Were Told By Shoin

In addition to the written statements, the General Union also has audio recordings of Shoin’s overt intention to break the law.

Shoin informed teachers: "our Board of Trustees has decided not to follow the law".

In addition, in the recording, they openly stated the following:

"We know the law which states the unlimited conversion rule about 5 years and 10 years. It is a matter in the legal world. Our Board of Trustees made a decision that we will never follow this rule considering our financial situation and that we set 5 years as the upper limit of the contract. It was in April this year.

We know that several other universities accept the unlimited conversion rule. They may set no upper limit. It is a matter in the contract renewal world. Each university would make its own decision.

Our contract does not mention about the upper limit of 5 years. What is written is only about the term of contract, 1 year.

If you ask us, "why was no explanation given when making the contracts for this year?", we will just have to apologize".

Note: The facts mentioned in this article were confirmed by the Headquarters of Educational Institution Shoin Gakuen on July 10th, 2017.

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The National Situation: A Number Of Universities Have Promised To Follow The Labor Contract Act And Withdrawn Threats To Terminate Contracts After Being Contacted By The General Union

The General Union warned Doshisha that one of its schools was attempting to avoid the unlimited conversion rule.

The Chief Director of Trustees issued the instruction to all schools stating that there should be no termination of the contract to avoid the unlimited conversion rule.

Also, it was revealed in the Osaka City University and Namisho Gakuen that these universities forced teachers to sign a revised "non-renewal and 5-year limit"contract.

The protests of the General Union forced them to restore the original contract.

Cases such as Shoin Gakuen’s planned evasion of the law are rare.

However, similar legal violations such as setting a 5-year upper limit for contract renewals and introducing a "cooling-off” period (layoff) have also been attempted by Sugiyama Jogakuen (in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture).

They are apparently an attempt to avoid the unlimited conversion rule.

We intend to bring this matter to the attention of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology along with Shoin Gakuen soon.

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Shoin Gakuen’s answer to the General Union (dated July 10th, 2017): http://gu.generalunion.org/20170710OsakaShoinResponse.pdf

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