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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However, some teachers DID finally notice the change to the contract.

When the semester commenced, teachers who inquired about the new clause were informed that the curriculum was being changed. They were told that, as of 2017, the university was considering outsourcing their jobs to a private company, and that they might be asked to go for work for a company such as ECC or Berlitz if they wished to retain their old jobs and continue teaching classes at the university in the future.

Some of those teachers have been working at Osaka University for over twenty years, and were understandably shocked and outraged that their decades of hard-work and dedication was now being rewarded with what can only be described as an underhanded betrayal.

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As one might imagine, in reaction to this news, the teachers approached the General Union and informed us about the situation, with most of them promptly joined as members in turn.

In response, the General Union immediately contacted Osaka University to arrange informal negotiations over the issue.

At the negotiations, the university confirmed that what the teachers had told the union was true - they were seriously considering outsourcing their own teachers to private companies, forcing them to accept service contracts (itaku) if they wished to continue to work at the university (albeit on a dispatching company's leash and payroll).

The university justified this plan with the allegation that Abiko (a district in southern Osaka, located around 20 minutes away from central Osaka city by car, and 30 minutes from Yotsubashi Station by train) was "a long way from the centre of Osaka", and that it was "difficult to recruit teachers" because of this reason.

Suffice to say, this outlandish claim was received by the union with guffaws and incredulity in equal measure.

General Union members were quick to point out that itaku are of dubious legality, and that using such contracts would create a number of problems for the university - the issue of not being able to direct or supervise what teachers do in class, and surrendering a great deal of control over to the private companies that they might outsource to.

According to the school, a final decision on the matter will not be made until September or October.

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It was also noted that contract that the teachers had been given at the start of the academic year were six-month term contracts spanning only the first semester. However, in direct contradiction to this term-limit, teachers had already been given their schedule(s) for the SECOND semester.

The General Union argued that this was all very clearly legal fiction: a decision had not been made, so it was clear to everyone that it was more than likely that the contract would, in fact, be renewed.

We demanded that Osaka University withdraw the offending contract and, instead, give teachers the renewable contract that they had been expecting, and that the university had, until 2016, used as normal.

The university agreed to consider this and then, in a later written reply to the General Union, agreed to the demand in its entirety.

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The withdrawal of the six-month contract, and the re-issuance of the old renewable contract, is a small but important victory for the General Union and the teachers we represent at the University.

However, Osaka City University has not yet agreed to abandon its egregious idea of outsourcing teacher's jobs to private companies in the future...

It should therefore come as no surprise that the union fully intends to keep up the pressure on the university to fight this duplicitous threat to those teachers' income, livelihood, and stability.

The Osaka City University's motto is "Creativity, Friendliness, and Flexibility" - tenets that they should apply to the very people that make those words a reality.

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