News

The General Union - Chock Full of Action!

Interested in knowing more about what the General Union is involved in?

Since 2015, we have been producing a report of our main yearly activity. It’s interesting to see the number of workplaces - both big AND small - that we deal with, and the number of people impacted by our work. This current report covers General Union work from June 2015 to May 2016.

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Osaka City University's Threat To Outsource Its Own Teachers Invokes Union Intervention

Negotiate To WinIn March of this year (2016), sixteen part-time teachers at the Osaka City University (OCU) - located in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka, received new contracts to sign which had, unbeknownst to them, been changed from previous contracts to include a clause stating that THIS contract would be their final employment contract with the university.

Many teachers signed the contract - which was only given to them in Japanese - without realizing that the contract (which was, for all intents and purposes, otherwise identical to previous contracts) had been altered to include the new "final contract" clause.

In addition, the university abstained from verbally informing the teachers of the additional clause, perhaps hoping that they would not notice its inclusion...

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Set Aside November 13 - Voting On Proposed Changes

November 13, Sunday – Autumn General Meeting

As our union continues to grow steadily, more and more members are unable to attend our general meetings and exercise their voting rights.

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Negotiations with ECC Collapse – Second Strike Looms

Union executive officers in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya met to discuss a resumption of strike action at ECC. It was decided that if no clear offer is made, members will take strike action on 25 June and 2 July.

Following our strike at ECC over a 100 yen per hour pay raise (in which, on April 23rd, 124 strikers in three regions picketed company headquarters), we had a strong reason to believe that ECC management was intending to move towards resolving the dispute.

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Stop police frame-ups of union members

On May 2nd, 2016, the Public Security Division of the Osaka Prefectural Police raided sixteen houses of members from sister unions, arresting three people in the process. The reason for these raids? The police allege that a union rented a conference room at a discounted rate to allow a meeting of two groups - one of which is opposed to the United States military presence in Japan - was an act of fraud, and one that evidently warranted such a heavy-handed response.

Osaka Zenrokyo, with the support of numerous other unions (including the General Union), vehemently deny this claim.

A joint statement of protest has been released and co-signed by these unions; the content of which can be seen below:

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Takatsuki City Wastes ¥1,296,000

In May of 2015, the General Union was able to win retroactive enrollment in unemployment insurance (雇用保険; koyou hoken) for the former direct-hire ALTs (AETs) of Takatsuki city. At that time, the city argued that, despite having an employment contract with those ALTs, the ALTs themselves were not employees, and therefore should not have received unemployment insurance.

Wait, what?

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Takatsuki City Caught Lying (Again)

If you follow General Union news fairly regularly, you'll know that one of our larger cases (in recent history) has involved the Takatsuki Board of Education and the previous AETs who suffered as a result of exposing many of the illegalities that the city was involved in. (See: "Takatsuki City Out Of Control")

As we continue to fight that fight, more and more developments keep revealing themselves to us. Case in point: we just caught more of the Board of Education's lies.

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Sunday May 22 - Annual General Meeting

Please remember the meeting is not at our Temmabashi office but at L Osaka on the other side of the station.

Click here for the Map

There are 2 starting times.

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The Situation With Altia Central

This is an update which has been sent to all of the Altia Central teachers with whom we are in contact. For the sake of informing as many people as possible (for example, people with Altia Central who may be out of the loop, or others who are considering Altia Cental as an employment option), we think it would be prudent to share this information to the public, too.

Here is what has been happening, and what will likely happen in the coming weeks:

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Progress Made - ECC Strikes Postponed

Negotiations with ECC over an across-the-board pay increase are progressing, so the General Union ECC branch has postponed a planned second strike.

After a successful April 23 strike, the company agreed to double its original offer, and continue negotiating.

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Union Issues Warning & Demands to Sapporo Board of Education

Here is the translation of an official warning sent by the General Union to Sapporo Board of Education over the recent ALT disaster. Please note that this is a rough translation. For a more accurate understanding read the original Japanese here.

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Victory at Doshisha International Academy – More Successes to Follow?

In a major victory at Doshisha International Academy, the General Union has been able to overturn five-year contract limits for our members.

As of last April (2016), all of our members received contracts that had no limit on renewals. This had been a major demand of our union.

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Rainbow Union Initiative!

Seeking motivated individuals to take part in a LGBTQIA+ focus group!

This group will spear head a LGBT resource guide as well as consider further actions the General Union can take to address sexual and gender identity inequality in the workplace!

Why do LGBT protections and support matter?

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Sapporo Dispatch Disaster – Nova, Interac & Sapporo City Board of Education all to Blame

Up to 65 ALTs in Sapporo have been left to hang out and dry. They are now scrambling to try and put together a plan of how to get through the next few weeks as the full details of the disaster unfolds.


Just a month ago, re-contracting ALTs suddenly discovered that Interac had lost the contract with Sapporo City Board of Education. While upsetting, many - if not the majority of ALTs - were able to slide over to the new contractor - NOVA Holdings. While there was relief, there was also anger. NOVA was paying even less money than Interac had been. There would be no salary at all for a month in the summer and winter periods. At least Interac paid a partial salary during these periods. In addition to this, there would also be fewer paid annual leave days, as the "new" NOVA ALTs were back to zero with their length of service.

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The View From Ecc Branch: "One Of The Most Inspiring Moments Of My Life"

On April 21st, 2016, in the wake of a number of failed negotiations, stalling tactics, and a string of unsubstantial concessions that amounted to little more than lip-service, the ECC Branch of the General Union decided that the time had come to send a clear message to the company by going on strike.

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Caveat Subscriptor: EngoEnglish.com

With the recent rise in “Uber-style” services, and the up-tick in companies attempting to use social media applications in the workplace in an attempt to make themselves seem "trendy", it should come as no surprise that there are people in Japan who see this trend and wonder: "how can I use something like this to make money at the expense of naive but well-meaning foreigners?"

One answer to that question is yet another suspect "student introduction service": EngoEnglish.com

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Time for a pay rise at ECC!

We demand ¥100 per hour special pay increase!

The General Union—ECC branch submitted this demand in January. 

That’s about ¥600 per day which is just over ¥12,000 a month. 

ECC has gone years without making an adjustment to members' basic salary and we think that this is the year that they will need to make sure our salaries don’t keep falling behind.

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Altia Central

This is an important message. Please spread it.

In recent negotiations Altia Central has admitted they have been breaking the paid annual leave law for many years. The union demanded that the company pay all current 285 ALTs financial compensation. Altia has refused. And instead, they are trying to institute a "worker's rep election" to try and fool people about their rights.

The union will not let this matter drop and will push for prosecution if the company does not compensate teachers.

Email union(@)generalunion.org for more details.

 

Can't get no satisfaction.....at Berlitz

The classic song by the Rolling Stones expresses the recent mood at Berlitz perfectly.

Remember taking the Employee Satisfaction Survey a few months ago? Well, the results send a very clear message!

Overall Job Satisfaction is down to only 34%!!! That’s a full 9% lower than the already low score of 43% from last year (even though we have more employees now). In plain English, and without any distracting numbers, that means the considerable majority of employees (Instructors, Staff, and Managers alike) at Berlitz are not happy with the current situation and operational practices. But most people knew that already.

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Peppy Dispute Comes To A Close

The first article written about the General Union and Peppy Kids Club ("Working At Peppy Kids Club?") was written on May 17th, 2012. Since that time, much has been done to create better working conditions for everyone involved - much to the dismay of management.

We've borne witness to the formation of the Peppy Kids Club Branch; demanded that the company follow the law and provide working rules as per Article 106 of the Labor Standards Act; pressed the company to provide unemployment insurance; tackled the company's unenforceable confidentiality agreements; and butted heads several times over the company's insistence on making employees pay for their own business-related travel expenses up front and out of their own pocket.

In December of 2012, Peppy Kids Club retaliated by firing the Chair of the Peppy Kids Branch of the General Union. The company attempted to dismiss this action as a non-renewal of contract due to poor performance.

Suffice to say, the General Union took swift action. ("Peppy Kids Club Fires Branch Chair - Union Moves Into Action")

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Union Secures Extra Leave Time For Osaka Gaigo Members


A growing interest amongst Japanese one-year contract teachers at Osaka Gaigo has led the General Union to some interesting negotiations...

While we've had a union branch at Osaka Gaigo for the past fifteen or so years, we had never considered demanding extra leave time like the kind given to the regular employees (both teachers and staff) - but thanks to some extra sleuthing by one Japanese member, the union was able to submit demands to the employer asking for this extra leave time.

We submitted the demand to the employer thinking that we wouldn't be able to win the same rights as the regular employees - but, surprisingly, they agreed!

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How Much Does A BoE Pay For An ALT Lesson?

From the Fukuoka General Union:

BOE sub-contracts out Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) work to dispatch companies, who in turn employ ALTs? A simple sum to work out how much Fukuoka City BOE pays per lesson, using documents obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI). ALTs are the only teachers that are "procured" by tender bid, but are treated as a "service" rather than a teacher.


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Truths About Nova’s Independent Contracts - #2 Paying To Use The Classroom

Nova charges ID Contract teachers 100 yen per lesson to use the same lesson booth a regular teacher uses for free. Why?

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Your Rights and Amity Housing - My Story

I work at Amity and I recently cancelled my housing contract with the company, while keeping my job. Fortunately, this paradox did not destroy the fabric of space-time.

When I first asked my Manager about finding a new apartment, she told me that the company-provided accommodations were non-negotiable. I was disappointed, but did my best to make the place habitable. It was much smaller than I was used to. There was no kitchen, just a hallway with a fridge, a sink and one lonely burner. Although I disliked my apartment, I figured there wasn’t anything I could do, since I’d already been told no.

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ECC: Join The Union, And Help Fight For A Pay Rise For Everyone

Download our new "Time for a Pay Rise" leaflet.

We've proven that, when we come together, we can make many changes at ECC.

We've been around as a union, in one form or another, since 1995, and have been leaders in winning benefits for both union and non-union members. If someone tells you that they won't negotiate with a union, tell them that they have, and they do.

What has the union won for you? Paid, flexible ALPs; unemployment insurance; health and pension insurance; pay rises; a Kanto living allowance; and these are just the big things.

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Caveat Subscriptor: World Kinder Interational School, Takasaki

While many may be aware of the Latin term of "caveat emptor" (meaning "buyer beware"), there is another term that you might not be aware of that is very apt in the context of reading contracts: Caveat Subscriptor - Signer Beware.

Although Japanese business owners are known to treat worker rights with some degree of contempt, it is often the case that foreign owners are even worse. Be it due to ignorance of labor laws, a lack of understanding of the culture, or just a general feeling that they are above the law due to not being Japanese, many of the worse problems that foreign employees face come from other foreigners.

This is one of those cases: beware of World Kinder International School, Takasaki.

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Olympic's Minister Endo "Not Aware" Of Fake Subcontracting

As the "donations-for-favors" scandal between the office of Olympic's Minister Endo Toshiaki and Interac Co. Ltd continues to brew, Mr Endo has claimed that he knew nothing about the directives that the Ministry of Education (MEXT) has issued to countless Boards of Education over the years, reiterating that the use of gyōmu itaku (outsourced sub-contracting) contracting in schools is (a) illegal, and that (b) Boards of Education should seek to directly hire foreign teachers.

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Takatsuki Opts For Alienation Instead Of Reconciliation

In the weeks and months since the scandal broke, both unions and citizens of Takatsuki alike have urged the mayor of the city to restart the beleaguered AET program.

The enduring fight waged by Takatsuki AET union members has gone so far as to involve the city of Toowoomba in Australia - the city which recruited and sent the AETs to Takatsuki in the first place.

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Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) in Japan - Below The Poverty Line

From the Fukuoka General Union:

This is an actual example on how impossible it is to live on the salary of a dispatched ALT working at a Kitakyushu City Board of Education public school. Though they are full time teachers, they only have 1000 yen a day to spend on food, and nothing else. They just can't survive on this low wage.
 
 

 

Truths About Nova’s Independent Contracts - #1: The Non-Competition Clause

When you're offered both an independent contract and an employment contract, you might think that the independent one offers you more freedom. After all, doesn't the word "independent" imply that you're a freelance tradesman, free to practice your skills for anyone you like?

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