News

An unofficial response to ECC

In the midst of our dispute with ECC, upper management sent a letter to all teachers disparaging the union by spreading lies about our campaign to win pay increases. As well as spreading lies, the company has committed another Unfair Labor Practice by doing so. Right now, at the request of ECC, we are in non-binding arbitration over across the board pay increases. If talks fail we will be suing the company over the letter.

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Senri International Campus Set To Close Saturday School?

At the end of March, 2016, teachers who work on the special programs at Kwansei Gakuin’s Senri International Campus ("Saturday School" and the summer vacation "Just for Kids" program) were told that these programs would be closed from the end of March, 2018.

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Berlitz Japan: automatic dues checkoff starts

This month we submitted our list of the first union members at Berlitz Japan who will be having their monthly union dues deducted directly from their salaries and submitted to the union by the company once per month. This is called a "dues checkoff system".

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No more duck and cover at Gaba

After requests from the General Union Gaba branch to improve emergency preparations, Gaba finally has an answer other than "duck and cover." From late July, Gaba Corporation is placing emergency supply boxes in all lesson booths in all Learning Studios across the country.

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General Union ECC Branch & Tokyo Roso ECC Foreign English Union: Together and fighting for a 100yen pay raise

This is the seventh story covering our struggle for a pay raise at ECC (see below for a complete list of stories). Feel free to download this as a leafletin PDF and send it on to your friends.

Why 100 YEN?

In a letter which the company will send to all teachers that has been shown to the union, ECC claims that the union is selfish and greedy. Basically they say that we only think about ourselves and not the company.

Well, we’re asking for  a 100 YEN pay raise for two reasons.

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More Unpaid Overtime At Rainbow International; More Action From The General Union

Dilbert © 2016 - Scott AdamsThe General Union has, in the past, locked horns with Rainbow International School over their culture of unpaid overtime. Indeed, as we wrote in our 2015-2016 union activity report:

"We have dealt with unpaid overtime here in the past and won payment. We are taking up the issue again this year but the person has left Japan and the company may not be so ready to settle. If not, it will be a good opportunity to use the Labor Standards Office and have an official order made.

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Illegal Contract Clauses Part V - James English School

James English School, established in 1976, is a "successful chain of English schools operating throughout Northern Japan". Spread across the Tohoku region, it "offers a wide range of classes, from Kids (2 years old and up) to Adults (Groups, Private Lessons, and Company Lessons)".

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Watami Unionized - Is that a good thing?

Watami (a chain of Japanese Izakaiya pubs) have recently made the Japanese newspapers over the announcement of a new union of 13,000 people. Only time will tell what that means. The major newspapers though, have failed to even attempt to analyze what the sudden appearance of such a large in-house union really means.

When a union of 13,000 suddenly appears, and has a compulsory membership placed upon employees... well, we have our doubts. 

One thing though - the agreement between the management and union, forced upon all employees, certainly promises a guaranteed income for the union.

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Union Victory As Osaka City University Withdraws Outsourcing Proposal

A few weeks ago, you may remember that the General Union intervened after sixteen part-time teachers at Osaka City University (OCU) discovered that, via sneaking a "final contract" clause into their contracts, the university planned on no longer directly hiring teachers, intending instead to outsource the teaching positions to a dispatch company. ("Osaka City University's Threat To Outsource Its Own Teachers Invokes Union Intervention")

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Amid Political And Social Turmoil After Upper-house Election, Osaka Zenrokyo To Hold 27th Regular General Meeting

On July 10th, three days from now, the outcome of the Upper House election will be decided. Will the LDP and Komeito (plus Osaka Ishin) forces for Constitutional revision win a two-thirds majority, or will the opposition hold out? It's impossible for mere mortals to predict.

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Teaching in a University or School? You May Already Know A General Union Member!

When people think of the General Union, many immediately associate it with our work in the language school industry at places like Berlitz, ECC, and Aeon.

Be that as it may, did you know that about half the General Union's membership is made up of teachers working in universities, high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools? In our union, this is called the "Schools and Colleges" ("SAC") sector, and covers all of those people working in the aforementioned establishments.

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NOVA - "Let Them Eat Noodles!"

Echoing the (misattributed) words of Marie Antoinette, a NOVA manager recently told a group of NOVA teachers that, instead of complaining about the basic living allowance that they were receiving, they should just eat cup noodles.

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Berlitz Teachers: More Money; Fewer Classes. Brought To You By: The General Union. (Starts September 18th)

In a remarkable display of solidarity and strategy, Berlitz union members have made enormous gains for all instructors at Berlitz - both union and non-union.

The biggest gains:

  • A ¥90-per-40-minute-class pay increase for per lesson (PL) teachers. For a new teacher, this is a jump from ¥1920 per class to ¥2010; an almost 5% increase! (For our non-Berlitz friends: a "per lesson teacher" is kind of like an on-call part-timer, and a major pillar of the Berlitz workforce.)

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Strike Two At ECC

The General Union called for a new strike after the president of the ECC Foreign Language Institute (ECC外語学院; ECC Gaigo Gakuin) withdrew all offers which were being discussed to resolve our impasse at negotiations.

Eighty-one General Union members (nine more than there were during our first strike - proof that the movement is growing), along with more than fifty other union members in Tokyo, struck at ECC for a second day on June 25th, 2016, resulting in the closure of many ECC classes in the Kinki, Chubu, and Kanto areas.

Our demand was simple - a ¥100-per-hour pay rise for all union members.

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Takatsuki City fails to settle dispute , Case will go to final judgement

With the outcome looking bad for Takatsuki City, the Osaka Labor Relations Commission had proposed to Takatsuki City that they settle our Unfair Labor Practices case by agreeing with the union’s proposal to start talks with Toowoomba City to restart the AET program in line with Japanese employment laws.

Yesterday though, on June 17th, 2016, Takatsuki City told the Commission that they were refusing this proposal and that they are ready to wait for the ruling of Osaka Labor Relations Commission. Ridiculous enough, they also told Osaka Labor Relations Commission, “The friendship activities between two cities are going well EXCEPT the AET Ambassador Exchange Program.”

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Heart Corporation - Can My Company Tell Me What I'm Allowed To Eat?

We recently received this email from an ALT with Heart Corporation:

"My manager told me that I must sit and eat with students during their lunch period. I don’t mind as it is part of my job responsibilities but the manager said I have to eat the school lunch. Worse than that, when I checked the company manual, it said that I am not allowed to eat any outside food at all, even in the teachers’ room. Is this legal?"

Article 6.9 - "Aside from approved ALT-brought lunches, it is not acceptable to chew gum or eat outside food in the school at any time, including the teacher’s room."

Rest assured, none of this is legal. 

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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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Additional information