Stable employment means better education

In this day and age when anyone can go to university and when the number of under-subscribed universities is increasing, we can sometimes forget that some places are doing well.

Ritsumeikan University, for example, had its subsidies cut by 1,500,000,000 yen on the grounds of exceeding its student capacity. While some profitable universities treat non-regular workers as disposable and in a high-handed manner, others are making efforts to protect workers’ employment and create an environment in which employees can work in security and peace of mind. While it is true that the situation varies from place to place, in this year’s GU Schools and Colleges ‘busy season’ we are hearing universities give reasons such as falling enrolment, curriculum changes, outsourcing, introductions of limits on numbers of classes, etc., for union members losing classes and receiving notices of non-renewal. At Mukogawa Women’s University, we saw the beginning of outsourcing from 2006, and because the number of classes for our union members fell as a direct result of this, we have been demanding the abolition of outsourcing there ever since. There were concerns about class allocations for 2009, though in the end the union members were offered all the classes they wanted. This was a sign that the university, even though continuing with outsourcing, may have decided that they will not cut more lessons from the directly hired teachers. At Poole Gakuin University, all the part-time teachers have had their koma reduced over the last 2 years. One member has seen a cut from 8 koma to 3 koma. (For the next year he was offered 1, but through collective bargaining, another has been offered.) The reduction in koma is not limited to the foreign part timers,Japanese and Korean part-time teachers have also been affected. One of the main problems at Poole:lack of communication between part-time teachers and administration. When the union members were first notified of their reduction two years ago, the notification was only in Japanese, whereas previous serious correspondence had always been either bilingual or in English only. Although a pre-consultation agreement was requested 2 years ago, the University has yet to agree and we are still demanding it. This year, Tezukayama University announced that it would be changing the name of one of the faculties from Jinbunkagakubu to Jinbungakubu. In the announcement, the administration indicated that some courses would require instructors with specialized training. Some union members indicated misgivings with the letter because of the vagueness of the English; therefore, we requested a meeting. At the meeting it came out that the curriculum had not yet been decided, so they had put something in the letter just in case; however, they had already chosen the course names, but not the content. In conversation with full-timers, it has been discovered that the name change was purely superficial. The course content will be basically the same, but the titles of the courses will be different. The faculty has been having trouble attracting new students, so instead of actually making a real change, they thought a name change would be good enough. Osaka University of Arts also started outsourcing in 2008. Worried about the effects on our members’ class numbers, we approached them for negotiations early this autumn, and in collective bargaining the university explained that the outsourcing would have no impact on the directly hired teachers and promised to maintain union members’ employment. At Kyoto Seika University, our members were given a two-year notice of non-renewal in July with curriculum changes given as the reason, but one collective bargaining won a promise from the university to make efforts to guarantee union members’ employment. In its written reply to our recent demands, Ritsumeikan University claimed things like, 'We don’t have any Jokin Koshi working here any more' which was totally untrue, but as regards our demands for better equipment for the Shokutaku teachers’ room, we received a positive response and noted a slight but welcome shift in attitude. At Ryukoku University, with curriculum changes as the reason given, a wide-ranging cut in classes was proposed, and the matter is currently under negotiation. It is often the case that the management of part timers is in the hands of a small number of full-time regular teachers, and if these people do not understand the seriousness of labour problems, they may tend to overlook part-timers’ rights, and because of their assumption that cutting labour costs is always by definition a good thing, it is not uncommon for them to make inappropriate personnel decisions. However, by using the union’s right to organise, the right of collective action and of collective bargaining, we are often able to fix them. While we cannot say that restructuring and cutting of labour costs are never necessary, it is often the case that they are done without due consideration of alternatives, and can be blocked or mitigated by the union’s intervention. Security of employment is one of the indispensable conditions for ensuring the quality of work. Insecurity can certainly never raise the quality of one’s work. The quality of an educator’s work is in fact the quality of education, and so joining the General Union to protect your livelihood means protecting the quality of education, too. from the December 2008 National Union Voice

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