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Make 2016 a year of struggle! Let each union share their experience and together fight the good fight

2015, a year that will surely mark the start of a new era, is over. A new year has begun. This year even more than last, the Abe Government--based on that market fundamentalism they call “neo-liberalism”--is working on gutting the Constitution in order to push forward with military development jointly with the United States. When we look at the recent loosening of labor regulations, it looks just like some primitive kind of capitalism has come back to life, as if policy is now being made solely from the point of view of capital.

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Nova Recruitment Drive - ¥1000 for First Three Months

The General Union is preparing for significant industrial action at Nova. In order to build up our strength, we’re making a special, limited-time offer to new members currently working at Nova: dues of only ¥1000 inclusive for the first three months of membership.

If interested, please fill out our online application form and be sure to indicate Nova as your workplace, and a representative will contact you shortly. Once your ¥1000 payment is received, you won’t have to make another payment until three months later.

 Let’s band together to start winning improvements at Nova!

Berlitz – Members’ Solidarity Wins Extra Pay

dfdfIn has been a long road since Berlitz unilaterally set out to solve a problem that the General Union has long complained about.

Like many other companies, Berlitz has never paid teachers for the time they spend working between lessons.

While teachers have been compensated for their teaching time, the company failed to understand that this time is often used for preparing things, such as planning their next lesson, preparing textbooks, writing reports, and discussing issues with other teachers and members of staff.

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Union chair in the news. Asahi newspaper. 9 January 2016. Osaka-jin #8

Dennis Tesolat (45). Chair of a labor union with mostly foreign workers. Boldly protecting his fellow workers.

Collective bargaining and even court, while struggling with disease.

“Cheerful, loud – I love Osakans,” he laughs out speaking in Osaka dialect, swinging his large body in his wheelchair.

Mr. Dennis Tesolat, an Italian-Canadian, is 45 years old and lives in Asahi Ward in Osaka City.

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For Japan’s English teachers, rays of hope amid the race to the bottom--Japan Times

A very decent article from the Japan Times covering the "eikaiwa" industry published on 7 January 2016 which also covers a lot of work the General Union has done to win improvements.

We must note that there is a small error in the part about Berlitz. The union's recent victory did not include any back pay.

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Failing To Think Before Clicking, Heart Coporation Leaks E-Mail Address

On December 7th, in a bizarre and unsolicited e-mail, Heart Corporation / Heart English School carelessly revealed the private e-mail addresses of numerous people - many of whom appear to have never actually worked for the company or, in the case of the union member who passed this information along, left the company several years ago.

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Nova Finally Issues Sexual Harassment Policy

After repeated delays, Nova finally gave a solid reply to our request for a clear, written sexual harassment policy, which we had asked for in August. According to Nova, instructor complaints will be handled immediately by the Head Office, Customer Consulting section in the General Affairs Department. Students deemed in violation will have their contracts terminated, and employees in violation will be dealt with according to internal company guidelines. Said guidelines had only existed in Japanese until recently, but Nova made an English translation which they sent to us and promised to make available to all instructors. We intend to hold Nova to their promises.

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Through Union Pressure, Waseda University Retracts Five-Year Employment Limit

As the General Union has previous reported ("Ritsumeikan University Changes Part-Time Employment System"), a number of universities have adopted employment "limits" on limited-term, part-time employees in an effort to prevent them from applying for unlimited-term contracts after five years of continuous employment, as directed by the revised  Labour Contract Renewal Law of 2012.

One of the universities that adopted this spurious policy was Waseda University (早稲田大学, Waseda Daigaku), which Wikipedia states is considered to be "one of Japan's most prestigious universities, consistently ranking amongst the top universities in Japanese university rankings. The university has many notable alumni in Japan, with seven Prime Ministers of Japan and many CEOs, including Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of UNIQLO."

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Complete victory in IES court case over shakai hoken

On November 7th, 2015, a union member's suit against his employer, International Education Services (IES), was settled in court mediation with the member winning each point he sued for. ("IES Sued Over Failure To Enrol In Shakai Hoken").

Foreign workers are often lead to believe that they are not eligible for shakai hoken (Employee's Health and Pension Insurance), or that - since they don't want the pension - they are better off with only kokumin kenkō hoken (Nation Health Insurance (NHI), via their local municipal office). Well, we hope this story will make you think again!

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NSSI unfair dismissal case settled in mediation

It has been over one year since we helped and supported some of our members in their efforts to sue Nippon Steel Sumikin Intercom (NSSI) over their dismissal after 19 years of work, but the General Union is pleased to announce that the case has finally been settled. ("Fired? Here's What Some Union Members Did About It"; "Suing Nippon Steel - Update")

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Nova's New Year Memo

Did you see today's memo? Buried at the bottom of the memo, you will notice the most important part – taking time off is NOT compulsory.

If you do not want to, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE leave - paid or unpaid - or organize a shift swap. You have the RIGHT TO WORK, and NOVA recognizes this (now).

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NOVA's New Teacher Evaluations Get An "F"

In September, NOVA launched a system in which teachers are evaluated by instructor managers (IM) and instructor support managers (ISM) under supposedly objective criteria. The system seems like it was hurriedly put together, and appears to be a malicious attempt to institutionalize company bullying by punishing teachers that management doesn't like for personal reasons.

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GABA & NOVA Independent Contracting - It's Not Just A Japan Thing

"Independent Contracting" at Gaba and Nova is putting the working conditions of all English teachers, both those in the eikaiwa and university sectors, in danger. In private talks , some of the larger language school chains have complained that Gaba effectively saves 30% on labor costs by falsely categorizing instructors as independent contractors and denying them paid annual leave, unemployment insurance, and other benefits. This strategy has had a ripple effect, with one Kansai university claiming its teachers are independent contractors.

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On That Day, Thirteen Years Ago...

The year was 2002. Kelly Clarkson won the first ever American Idol Contest, the United Kingdom mourned the passing of the Queen Mother, Japan was basking in the afterglow of the Korea/Japan FIFA World Cup, and Star Wars Episode II was disappointing fans around the world.

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A New Fight For Shakai Hoken At NOVA

It is no secret that NOVA has, for many years, vehemently avoided enrolling its employees in Shakai  Hoken (Employee’s Health and Pension Insurance) in order to save money by not having to contribute half of the insurance premium costs.

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The Conundrum of Confiscating Cellphones at Kansai International Academy

Here in the General Union office, we have a short (but often accurate) adage that states: "Beware of any school that has the word "International" anywhere in its name".

Given what we know of Kansai International Academy (inclusive of Kansai International School and Sakura International School), it would appear that our precept is accurate once more. If nothing else, they certainly seem to have a reputation that would qualify them for such a dubious honour.

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New member Orientations

New member Orientations to the union are offered three times per year. You can in person in our Osaka Office, or by Skype. This program will generally be on a Sunday evening - but, with Skype, we can be flexible.

After you have been formally ratified as a union member you will receive information on upcoming orientation dates.

Just joined the union and have questions? We'll cover these topics, and more:

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Otemon - Language Education Without Language Teachers

Otemon Gakuin High School is presently trying to non-renew all of its native speaker language teachers, using the excuse of a change in the curriculum.

We believe that this is because they wish to avoid giving these teachers permanent contracts under the revised Labour Contract Law from April 2018.

The General Union will vigorously oppose this attack.

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October 16 is almost here - Interac ALTs should lodge their concerns

As the General Union has reported, Interac Co. Ltd has announced an "absorption-type split agreement" that - as of January 1st, 2016 - will see it split into six subsidiary companies (view the full article here).

It is becoming clear to the General Union that this announcement, seemingly timed as a reaction to the recent revisions to the dispatch, and other labor laws that would directly affect the company, is designed not as a means by which to "position ourselves to manage the growth in the market", but as a way to evade legal obligations that they would otherwise soon be subject to.

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Why Is October 16th So Important To Interac?

In the midst of the General Union writing an article about Interac's recently announced "absorption-type split agreement" six regional companies, Interac has suddenly and unexpectedly sent time-sensitive letters to employees asking them to accept the changes that will come into effect on January 1st, 2016, or to lodge an objection by October 16th.

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Gaba Corporation to run emergency drills

After the union repeatedly raising the issue of disaster preparation Gaba Corporation is holding drills at 14 Learning Studios across Japan in the next few months. The drills are paid at the rate of two non-peak lessons.

This number of drills is a big improvement from 2014, when the company did none, and from 2013, when it did seven.

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Executive Committee 2015

Andrew H. (Branch Chair)

I am from California, USA, and have been working as an instructor at Nova since November of 2010. I currently work at various schools between Kobe and Osaka.

I joined the union and declared my membership in the summer of 2014, out of a sense of malaise that the company neither had any sense of direction nor placed any value in the happiness of its employees. I look forward to meeting everyone of you, and showing you how we can achieve great things by working together.

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Fired? Here's What Some Union Members Did About It

In 2013, two employees of Nippon Steel, who had worked for the company for almost two decades, unexpectedly discovered that their contract with the company would not be renewed as part of "internal restructuring" - "restructuring" that, in reality, was just business jargon for "fire veteran employees and save money by hiring people to do the same job for less salary".

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Gaba Hides Client Sexual Harassment, Punishes Instructors

There is a Gaba client who was blocked from taking lessons from several female instructors for harassing them. Despite this, the company has refused to discontinue the client’s contract, has removed the 'special circumstances' note highlighting his behaviour from his file, and has repeatedly deleted comments inputed by an instructor who had been harassed by the client. They have gone so far as to give her a written warning for her actions.

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The Reality of Convenience Stores

Recently, Seven-Eleven Japan notified the Chair of the Japan Association of Convenience Store Franchisee's Union (the "Konbini Kamei-ten Yunion", or "CU"), a union comprised of convenience store operators and employees, that it would refuse to renew his contract with the company, effectively firing him. This action has shocked the members of the CU, who have decried it as "blatant union-busting".

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Nova Manager Apologizes After Official Union Complaint

Recently, drama erupted at NOVA after a student accused a teacher - a member of the General Union - of being involved in a torrid affair with another NOVA staff member. The accusation was baseless, as no relationship of a romantic nature existed between the teacher and the member of staff. However, the way that NOVA handled the situation left much to be desired.

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Absences or lateness due to typhoon weather

The union has been asked about this issue. Over this week there was very heavy rain across Japan making travel in some areas dangerous due to the passing typhoons. The union believes that instructors shouldn't be penalised because of any lateness or absences due to this extreme weather.

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Emergency Drills To Be Held At GABA "More Often"

At GABA, the last evacuations practised at learning studios were conducted two years ago, at only a small number of locations, with few instructors taking part.

While there are posters in Learning Studios advising what to do in the event of a disaster, there has been little real education or preparation to give instructors experience in knowing what to do or how to handle the situation when - not if - an earthquake occurs.

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Privacy Protection - Companies: Think Before You Click

At the end of August, 2015, a "Head Teacher" of one of the largest dispatch companies in Japan sent out a newsletter in which he pasted the e-mail address of every recipient into the "TO:" field instead of the "CC:" field, thus revealing the private e-mail addresses of everyone that the e-mail was intended for to everyone who received it.

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