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- 4 Dec 2012|
Peppy Kids Club fires branch chair - union moves into actionAfter eight years of service, the chair of our newly formed union branch at Peppy English Kids Club has been fired for union activity. The company will claim it is a simple case of “contract non-renewal” for poor performance amongst other things, but after eight years and eight consecutive contracts, the union strongly believes it is an illegal firing under Japanese Trade Union Law.
The firing has not had the intended effect, however. More teachers at the company have joined the union out of disgust with the actions of management in dismissing the branch chair.
Pretext for the firing
The company initially claimed that the branch chair was performing poorly and that he had “failed to improve as a teacher”. While it is true that teachers everywhere should strive to improve, in the case of our branch chair it is a little difficult to show improvement when all your evaluations are in the 96-97% range like Jason’s were.
The company later raised in negotiations the fact that Jason had private students. This is true. Like many other teachers, Jason has a small number of private students. Mindful that Peppy is a kids’ school, he has only ever taught private adult lessons. He has never taught children. It should also be noted that different levels of management had known our member had private students for many years. How can this suddenly become a fireable offence?
In reality, the firing is a barely veiled attack on the branch chair for organizing teachers, and demanding improvements for both foreign and Japanese teachers at Peppy. For example, Japanese teachers working at Peppy are denied unemployment insurance, so if they lose their job they have no safety net. The union called on the company to follow the law and enrol them, and our branch chair was at the front of these efforts.
What we're doing about it
Negotiations were held on October 31 and it was hoped that the company would see sense and realize that their reasons for the firing were unfounded. After a lot of argument, the union set a deadline for a retraction of the firing for November 8th.
However, the company failed to back down by the time the deadline came around. As a result the union promptly declared a dispute with the company and began to discuss strike action.
We also filed a case with the Osaka Labor Commission to deal with the dismissal and other unfair labor practices, and we intend to press ahead with strikes.
After the company received our notice of dispute, they panicked, and the branch chair was hastily removed from the teaching schedule at the last minute. This was to prevent him from striking. Despite this, strikes have begun with others being planned.
The head office also began calling teachers wanting details of other strikes etc. Some people have reported that they have felt intimidated. This is another violation of the Trade Union Law. Japan is not like back home. Managers do not have the right to ask if you are a union member, nor do they have the right to give their opinions on the union. This is a violation of the law. If this happens to you we ask that you report it to us immediately.
Employers usually avoid doing such blatant union-busting, as they tend not to get away with it. However, it has happened to other GU branches. At GEOS and Nichibei there were similar cases previously, and just a year ago at Gaba Corporation a similar dismissal took place.
In all of these cases the union won back the job of the dismissed branch chair, and we are confident the same will happen here. The union fights for those who stand up to try to organize their coworkers and improve working conditions. The law is on our side, and more than that, it is totally immoral for a company to fire an employee for trying to improve the conditions of their fellow employees. We won’t stand for it – watch this space.