Introduction to General Union Tokai Branch

Tokai Branch is the General Union Branch to which all GU members in Aichi Prefecture and neighbouring areas (Mie, Gifu, etc.) belong, unless they are designated to a workplace-specific branch (for example, ECC, Berlitz, Nagoya Gaidai). Tokai Branch includes conversation school teachers, ALTs, university teachers, and other workers.

 

The Union has achieved quite a lot in the Nagoya area over the past 20 years, as a quick history tour shows.

The General Union welcomed its first members in Nagoya when teachers at Atty Language Institute came to the Union for help after their employer suddenly went bankrupt in April 1994. Later that year, another large English school, Bilingual, suffered the same fate, and in this case the GU was able to use the Japanese government's Wage Protection Fund to claim unpaid wages for teachers who had been working at Bilingual until its collapse. This was the first time foreign workers were able to benefit from this fund.

From then on, there was a steady stream of requests for help from foreign teachers in the Nagoya area, but without a base there, it was at times impossible for the Union to do more than advise them. Clearly, we needed an office in Tokai. As the GU General Secretary stated in February 1997, "Employers in Nagoya have had easy going for years...I suspect that most of their contracts contain violations of the law. It's time to put employers on notice - they need to be more careful and professional."

General Union members founded Tokai International Union in March 1997. This wasn't a GU branch, but it was strongly supported by the GU. Most (about two-thirds) of the TIU's members were at ECC language school, where the Union was very active in the late 90s. With rolling strikes (in which one teacher per day stopped work for one hour) and a leafleting campaign aimed at students, TIU-ECC was able to win paid holidays according to the Labour Standards Law (1997), December 25th and 26th as paid vacation days, unemployment insurance for all staff, and a grievance procedure under which the ECC would have to consult the Union whenever it believed it had a problem with a teacher who was a Union member (1998). (Note to ECC teachers: the relatively good conditions you enjoy today didn't come out of nowhere... They have a history in which the Union played a big part!)

In 1998, TIU members at their Annual General Meeting decided to become a GU Branch, and Osaka GU agreed to send staff to Nagoya two days a month to support the Branch.

Soon after, the Union was involved in a dispute with GEOS when one of its Japanese staff in Nagoya had to take the company to court in pursuit of unpaid overtime wages. The Union collected funds to help her with legal expenses and filed an unfair labour practice case against GEOS to increase the pressure on the company. GEOS had to settle the dispute with our member in 2000.

Despite the victories, GU Tokai as an organisation was waning. However, matters began to look up after the Union was able to win a settlement for a Canadian teacher who'd been unfairly fired by a (now defunct) English school called Grandom. Her case prompted several other teachers to join the Union, and from 2001 onwards, at least one Union officer has been based in Nagoya, keeping the Tokai Branch office running. Here's a quick list of some of the successes we've had in Nagoya since then: 2002 Linguaphone Academy: GU won settlement of unfair firing and unemployment insurance enrolment for all staff Shoseki Yuugengaisha (industrial concern): GU won settlement of a Filipino worker's claim for unpaid overtime wages Bohme Academy: GU helped a member to use Labour Standards Office to secure a dismissal allowance Tokai Gakuen High School: GU won settlement for several teachers after they were laid off 2004 Zenken Honsha: GU helped a member to use Labour Standards Office to get paid holidays according to the law British Council: GU won settlement for a member whose contract was not renewed 2007 Ohka Gakuen: GU won settlement for a member whose contract was not renewed Nagoya University of Foreign Studies: GU won settlement for a member whose contract was not renewed Nagoya University of Commerce and Business: GU helped member to use Labour Standards Office to win unpaid wages 2008 AEON: GU helped member to use Labour Standards Office to win unpaid overtime wages. As you can see from this brief rundown, we've welcomed workers of a variety of nationalities, and not just language teachers. Right now we particularly encourage teachers at AEON, GABA, and ECC to join us. We've already done a lot to make these schools better places to work, and with your support we can achieve a great deal more. August 2008


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