News

Harassment by Gaba Clients - What You Can Do if It Happens

gaba harassmentFor some years, the General Union's Gaba branch has been following up the issue of clients harassing instructors.

After the union repeatedly raised the issue, company published guidelines about blocking clients, which can be found buried away under "Instructor Policy" >> "Professionalism" >> "Inappropriate Behavior Instructor policy" (see below).

Unless instructors take a very deep dive into the back pages of the Gaba site they are unlikely to find this.

Things have improved somewhat, but talking to new instructors coming into the system makes it clear that this issue is still not being adequately covered.

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Good News for Berlitz Members as Union Improves Pay and Other Conditions

On Friday, October 12th, collective bargaining for 2019 working conditions finally ended, and both parties concluded a collective agreement.

This is the first ever collective agreement with Berlitz that offers pay increases outside of the current evaluated pay increase system.

While the agreement is limited in scope and only covers some members who were not eligible for an evaluation or were maxed out on pay increases, it is a major breakthrough at a company who has only ever given pay increases based on evaluation.

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Union Wins At Nagoya District Court: Nova's "Independent Contractors" Actually Employees

● Union members on individual contractor agreements ruled to be employees

● Court orders payment of damages to loss of paid holidays under the Labour Standards Law.

● Court also orders damages for failure to enrol in health and pension insurance.

● Nagoya court rules that 40 lesson contract employees are actually eligible for enrolment in health and pension insurance.

A judgement in a case filed against NOVA by six general union members in 2016 was handed down on September 24th (2019).

Nova employed the six members as independent contractors to work as teachers right alongside employees who were also teachers. Nova has gradually tried to increase the number of contractors working as teachers in order to weaken employment rights.

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Unfair Labor Practices at Kansai Gaidai

kansai gaidai signThe General Union has sued Kansai Gaidai University (KGU) and SEICO at the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission for unfair labor practices stemming from their violations of the Trade Union Law. We are asking for the following:

1. Stop anti-union activities and apologize publicly.

2. Continue the employment of union members.

3. Increase the number of directly employed faculty by giving preference to existing workers on limited term contracts employed by the university and SEICO.

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Survey of Over 1,700 Boards of Education

Two weeks ago, the General Union (in cooperation with our national union headquarters and sister unions) sent out a report to every board of education (BOE) in the country in regards to Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs).

As of September 13th (2019), we have received over 600 responses -much higher than our usual average in more limited surveys.

The survey follows the types of employment contracts for ALTs, illegal/improper dispatching, and - most importantly - what BOEs plan to do in regards to direct hire ALTs in 2020 when changes to the Local Civil Servants Law come into effect.

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Japanese Company (Glassdoor) Review Roundup (2019/09)

glassdoor logoBecause there are a lot of dispatch companies, conversation schools, and universities across Japan, it can be really difficult to keep track of which company is which - and just as challenging to form a general idea of what kind of (subjective) reputation Company A has compared to Company B.

Enter glassdoor.com - a "website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management".

To save you a good deal of time and effort, we've taken the liberty of rounding up a number of Glassdoor review scores for many of companies that someone in the English-language profession might be interested in to help you gain an idea of which employers might be good to work for - and which ones might be best to avoid.

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That Time Heart Corporation Angered The Philippines

poeaOn July 5th, 2019, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), part of the Republic of the Philippines's Department of Labor and Employment, issued a remarkable news release entitled: "BEWARE OF JAPAN SCHOOL ILLEGALLY RECRUITING FILIPINO TEACHERS"

In this news release, the POEA singled out Heart Corporation (aka Heart English School) for the "illegal recruitment of Filipino English instructors in Japan" and visa-fraud in the form of "facilitating the travel of the teachers as tourists or the conversion of student visas to teacher visas of those already in Japan".

Heart Corporation is said to have continued to "defy" the POEA "on the premise that it is a Japanese company and it has no obligation to abide by Philippine regulations".

Just what is going on here?

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[OP-ED] "Make Happy"? No Thanks!

make happy op edI have spent about four years living in Japan and came here later than most at the age of thirty.

In the past, I taught at a respectable private high school in England and a business training service center in Germany.

After looking at Glassdoor, I knew that English education standards were questionable in Japan.

Yet, I was genuinely surprised by what I experienced. 

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September 8th - Language Industry Shunto 2020 Organising Meeting

Union leaders from around Japan representing workers at major language schools will meet to start planning Shunto 2020.

The first stage of planning will be creating a comprehensive assessment of working conditions at all the major schools.

Our goal is to make sure the highest common denominator is used at all schools to set working conditions, as opposed to the race to the bottom that employers want to force on us. 

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Stop Harassment at Sophia University - Sign The Petition

Sign the Petition!

Professor Choo, a member of NUGW Tokyo Nambu, is fighting against her dismissal at Sophia University.

Sophia University issued a de facto dismissal notice on July 17, 2019 to Professor Kukhee Choo of the Faculty of Liberal Arts Department.

Professor Kukhee Choo left her university in the United Sates to join Sophia University as an Assistant Professor 5 years ago after being told by the FLA Department that, "As for promotion to Associate Professor, with your record, we strongly feel that you may be able to apply for [tenure] as early as your second year at the FLA".

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Gaba Corporation Safety Preparation Survey

The General Union has raised safety issues with Gaba on many occasions, resulting in more emergency drills and emergency supplies being provided for all lesson booths.

In light of the recent horrific fire in Kyoto resulting in a large number of deaths, and the general possibility of fire, earthquakes and other dangers, we would like to check in with instructors about the current safety situation at Gaba.

We hope that you'll take this quick and anonymous survey as we would love to hear from as many people working at Gaba as possible.

ECC: Union Wins Improvements for 2019; Vows to Keep Fighting in 2020

Six months of negotiations ended on July 21st without a strike, with members voting three-to-one to accept ECCs final offer negotiated with the union.

This year's bargaining had a lot of cliffhangers with two scheduled strikes being post-poned as we turned the threat of strikes into tangible gains for our members.

The package accepted by a vast majority of General Union and Tokyo Roso ECC members brings the following benefits to members:

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Directly Hired ALT? Ready For The 2020 Punch?

Are you an Assistant Language Teacher who is directly employed by a municipal board of education?

If you are, we'd suggest that you pay attention to this article and even consider consulting with the union.

As you may know, the General Union has had dealings with various boards of education acros Japan - both now and in the past.

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ECC strikes postponed. New deadline set for end of June

As the union held three new negotiation sessions during May and some progress was made in terms of proposals from the company (they moved off their ALL NO plan), ECC union officers decided to give the company another month to try to resolve the outstanding points.

We will continue negotiations over pay and yearly working days as well as getting rid of some of the new conditions ecc introduced this year to limit the numbers of those on unlimited term contracts.

Keep your eyes tuned to this site for more details.

General Union Wins Continued Employment For Members After Coco Juku Collapse

coco union winIn February (2019), the language teaching industry was again shocked (but perhaps not surprised) by the announcement that the Nichii Gakkan-owned Coco Juku would cease operations, following in the footsteps of both NOVA and GEOS around a decade ago.

Perhaps more shocking, however, was the treatment of the employees by both the company and the in-house union (the Nichii Gakkan Labor Union) - a union that employees were required to join. 

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New Era Starts In Japan; "Same Old, Same Old" At ECC

ecc same old same old※ Strikes planned for May 25th and June 1st.

On April 14, 2019, union members representing over 150 ECC employees in Kinki, Kanto, and Chubu, voted to take strike action at ECC if negotiations could not resolve union demands by May 25th.

Not only is the employer's failure to offer a minimum across the board pay rise (which they have done every year since 2015, with the exception of 2018 when the union settled for a minimum "across-the-board" pay rise AND paid special leave) a slap in the face to the duty to negotiate in good faith, the employer has begun ridiculous attacks on employees. 

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Berlitz And ECC Branches Negotiations Over Pay And Working Conditions: Round 1

General Union members at both Berlitz and ECC began collective bargaining in January (2019) over pay and working conditions. After a few rounds of bargaining, both ECC and Berlitz members will get a chance to vote on whatever is on offer at their union branch AGMs on April 14th.

Turning down the proposals could possibly lead to a strike at both companies and, at this point, there is no clear proposal from either company over pay. 

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Berlitz And ECC Branches Negotiations Over Pay And Working Conditions: Round 1 (Berlitz)

General Union members at both Berlitz and ECC began collective bargaining in January (2019) over pay and working conditions. After a few rounds of bargaining, both ECC and Berlitz members will get a chance to vote on whatever is on offer at their union branch AGMs on April 14th.

Turning down the proposals could possibly lead to a strike at both companies and, at this point, there is no clear proposal from either company over pay. 

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Takatsuki Mayor's "Written Oath to Prevent Recurrence” Delivered: Final Chapter in “Takatsuki AET Graduation Ceremony Incident"

As previously reported, on March 5 the Supreme Court rejected Takatsuki City’s appeal. The unusual case, in which Takatsuki City sued Osaka Prefecture, thus reached its ultimate conclusion, and the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission’s order for relief from unfair labor practices became final.

After this outcome, on March 22, 2019, a representative of Takatsuki City visited the General Union office and handed a “Written Oath to Prevent Recurrence of Unfair Labor Practices” from Takatsuki mayor Takeshi Hamada, to General Union chair Dennis Tesolat. 

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Supreme Court Dismisses Takatsuki City’s Appeal

On March 7, 2019, a sealed letter from the Supreme Court arrived at the General Union’s office. When opened, it was found to contain a three-page document with plenty of white space.

It was a notification that the Supreme Court had on March 5, 2019, rejected Takatsuki City’s appeal of the Osaka Superior Court decision of September 7, 2018, stating that the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission had been correct in judging Takatsuki City’s actions (forbidding General Union members, who worked at Takatsuki elementary schools as assistant English teachers, from attending their students’ graduation ceremonies in March of 2015, and slandering the General Union from the podium at a City Council plenary meeting) to be unfair labor practices.

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General Union Sues Sugiyama Jogakuen Educational Corporation At Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission

Sugiyama Jogakuen Educational Corporation, having repeatedly broken the law, was on its last chance to resolve things voluntarily through negotiation.

After that, the Corporation responded to the General Union’s demand for collective bargaining by saying that "the decision of our Board of Trustees is not going to change, so holding collective bargaining is meaningless", sending the Union a notice refusing to even have negotiations at all.

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GU Demands Equal Pay And Direct Employment For Dispatch Teachers From SEICO

SEICO is a dispatching company that almost exclusively dispatches teachers to Kansai Gaidai, with the CEO having very close links to the university.

Unfortunately, we have been informed by non-union members uneasy about developments that management have orchestrated a campaign to "Keep the General Union out of SEICO".

This campaign has arisen because the General Union has a small but growing number of members who are employed by SEICO and dispatched to the university. 

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ECC And Berlitz Members Win Big In 2018! Let's Do It Again In 2019!

While collective bargaining took much longer than usual at these two workplaces, we were able make significant gains at both workplaces.

At ECC, bargaining focussed on four main demands: an across the board pay increase for all members; pay for special paid congratulatory and condolence leave; the return of the union's right to talk to new teachers at company orientation sessions; and the return of the company's rent subsidy for the ECC branch office.

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Osaka Gaigo: What Are They So Desperate To Hide?

Bunsai Gakuen Educational Corporation and Osaka Gaigo Semmon Gakko Stubbornly Refuse to Show their Financial Statements

In our February 2018 article, we reported on the puzzling behavior of Osaka Gaigo Semmon Gakko in pouring money wastefully into a lawsuit while insisting that they “have no money” ("Osaka Gaigo's Got Money To Burn! (But Not For Union Members)").

The situation has continued to develop.

When the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission issued an order for relief of unfair labor practices, commanding the school to "apologize to the Union and allow them to examine the financial statements", Osaka Gaigo filed suit in Osaka District Court seeking cancellation of the relief order. 

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Union Sues Marist Brothers International School

sue o clock

On October 9th (2018), the General Union filed an application at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission suing Marist Brothers International School for their violation of the Trade Union Law.

The union had been trying unsuccessfully for a couple of months to get Marist Brothers to the collective bargaining table over their unfair contract non-renewal of a teacher who returned to work after taking maternity leave.

The union charges that Marist Brothers, not wanting to renew a contract which would have lead to a future unlimited term contract, unfairly ended the employment of the teacher - without any warnings - over what they claim to be the teachers "problems" at work.

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The Pursuit Of Union Representation At Deutsche Schule Kobe

deutsche schule kobeThe General Union has been in negotiations with the Deutsche Schule Kobe for over six months.

Teachers at the school joined the General Union after the school reduced their bonus to zero for the previous academic year after they had received only 50% of the usual bonus for the year before that.

The school have given their financial situation as the reason for not paying a bonus. 

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Takatsuki City to Appeal Yet Again After Osaka High Court Rules On "Takatsuki AET Graduation Incident"

this is fineOn March 19th, 2015, two General Union members who were employed by the Takatsuki City Board of Education to assist with English language activities at city elementary schools were refused permission by the Board of Education to attend their students' graduation ceremonies.

Over the three-and-a-half years since then, the fight over this surprising incident has moved from the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission to the Osaka District Court, and then once again to the Osaka High Court.

On September 7th, 2018, the Osaka High Court handed down its ruling (PDF): 

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Is The "New" NOVA Regressing?

nova go downCould it be that - about 25 years after NOVA teachers joined the General Union and fixed NOVA's paid holiday problem - the "new" NOVA is regressing to an evolutionary form that preceeds even the "old" one?

We received a call the other day from a NOVA instructor asking how much notice they have to give in order to use a paid holiday.

While there isn't always a black and white answer, the basic principle when it comes to these kinds of things is that paid holidays belong to the employee as an indisputable legal right. 

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Working At NOVA? We'll Tell You What NOVA Won't About Unlimited Term Contracts

top secret novaAs you might know, as of April 1st, 2018, those employed at the same employer for over five years (as of any contract signed on or after April 1st, 2013), can apply to have their limited-term contract converted into an unlimited-term contract.

This means that once you apply, the employer must accept it - and when you sign the NEXT contract, there is no longer an end date (e.g. you change from a one-year contract to an unlimited-year contract).

You can read more about the limited- to unlimited-term contract conversion process in our extensive Q&A on the topic: The Labor Contract Law Amendment Q&A 

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Shoin Gakuen: How Will They "Explain" Their Illegal Dismissals In Court?

blind justice osaka shoinA General Union member who held a job as a non-regular teacher of English at Shoin High School (operated by Shoin Gakuen Educational Corporation) was dismissed from the job, with no reason given, on March 31st (2018) - just a day before gaining the right to switch to an unlimited-term contract.

On June 25th (2018), our union member filed suit against Shoin Gakuen Educational Corporation, claiming the dismissal was invalid, and held a press conference together with the General Union. 

The scene was broadcast by several major media outlets in the Kansai region (MBSAsahiKTVYTV).

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