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Kyoto Gaidai Takes Hardline Against Teacher After Cancer Diagnosis

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (Kyodai) has a policy of forcing teachers who have underlying conditions or are sick to either risk their life teaching face to face or to stay home and basically lose their job and means of making a living. Two union members have already ceased working there due to the harsh policy.

(David has recorded this video outlining his experience. He is currently in hospital having major surgery.)

This contrasts with most other universities in the Kansai area which have allowed online teaching options for teacher's with underlying conditions. Kyoto Gaidai has had one of the harshest approaches in the region. Two union members have already had to cease working when faced with this choice. 

Read more...

General Union ECC Branch: Solidarity & Action Online Rally

The ECC Branch of the General Union has called two strikes for 30 October and 6 November and will be holding a Rally for Solidarity and to Call Out ECC on Sunday, 17 October at 10am and 8pm.

ALL General Union members are urged to come for a show of support for their union mates at ECC.

The General Union ECC Branch is the largest branch in the General Union. As such, they have played a pivotal role in shaping the fight for eikaiwa workers’ rights in the language teaching industry in Japan.

A victory for the GU anywhere is a victory for union members everywhere! Showing that we stick together wherever we work, puts all employers on notice!

Read more...

Union-led Progress at Nagoya International School

The General Union is currently in a dispute with Nagoya International School over a member who was non-renewed after filing a sexual harassment complaint and declaring union membership (read more). Since then, the Union has engaged in collective bargaining with the school as well as filing a suit against them at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission. This pressure has precipitated changes in the workplace.

Prior to the union's involvement, Nagoya International School had had many questionable labour practices in addition to the mishandling of the sexual harassment case, but after negotiations with the Union, workers at Nagoya International School have won the following:

Read more...

Shots at Eikaiwa

In early July, Before the vaccine supplies issues occurred, we sent a letter to the six main Eikaiwas AEON, Berlitz, ECC, GABA, Nova and Shane recommending what they should do to safeguard their workers’ health and economic wellbeing during the vaccine process. We recommended getting the vaccine should be considered worktime (either paid or being vaccinated during work time) and paid time off for any side effects. This is similar to what companies such as Mitsubishi Electric Corp, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, Yahoo Japan, Soft Bank and Mercari Co already did back in May 

Read more...

ECC Teachers Vote to Strike!

The ECC Branch of the General Union – the single largest workplace branch in the General Union – has voted to go on strike after ECC’s management repeatedly rejected workers’ demands centered on employee health, pay, and mandatory “holiday make-up” workdays.

The vote was held after a spirited two-hour, all-member meeting Sunday, August 30th. The broad sentiment of attendees was that ECC failed to show sympathy or even fairness for its employees at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is endangering teachers’ health as well as creating classroom chaos with unclear and unpopular policies.

From the list of demands ranging from long commute allowances to fair treatment of non-limited term contract workers, the leading demand of unionized teachers is the abolition of extra workdays that teachers are required to do to “make up” for national holidays that fall on their normal workdays.

Read more...

Click to Support The Union's Doshisha Dispute

30 August Online Information Picket

The union has received a lot of press attention around our current dispute with Doshisha, but we still need your help in publicising the information and helping us protest to Doshisha.

In a nutshell, the dispute is about (read more about the union at Doshisha)

  • Age-based, discriminatory wage cuts at Doshisha University (cased filed with Kyoto District Court-Labour Tribunal)
  • Unpaid wages due to pay for all work done at Doshisha Girls Junior & Senior High School (case filed with Kyoto Kami Labour Standards Office)
  • Evasion of the unlimited term contract provisions in the Labour Contract Law by limiting employment to ten years.
  • Failure to negotiate with the union and dismissals of union members (case filed with Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission)

You can also help us spread the word about the dispute and urge Doshisha to negotiate fairly with the union to resolve these matters by adding this story to your Facebook feed or Twitter feed.

"D"oshisha Day action dispute

 On August 19th the General Union filed 5 actions against Doshisha after fruitless attempts at negotiations. After trying to the utmost to get Doshisha to negotiate, it was clear that they had no interest in offering any ideas to resolve the myriad problems raised by members.
The Union announced its intention to enter into dispute here: (https://www.generalunion.org/higher-eduction/2374-union-prepares-dispute-against-doshsisha)

First thing in the morning, we went to the Labor Commission to seek relief for 3 cases of dismissal of union members as a result of their membership and refusal of collective bargaining.

Read more...

Demanding Safety at GABA

safety firstThe COVID-19 pandemic is continuing with record cases in Japan, especially in the Tokyo area. The General Union believes that protecting workers health and economic position is the top priority.

So, we have submitted demands to GABA that we believe protect the health of clients, instructors and staff. As well as maintaining a livable income for Gaba Instructors.

These demands include protecting workers current rates of payment if they reduce their lessons for the purposes of safety, make the current difficult lesson cancellation system simpler and efficient, make sure air flow is at a premium, ensure covid-19 testing is done above the standards of the public health center and promote transparency for all covid19 cases at a GABA LS.

With GABA workers and the General Union working together we believe can make the workplace safer for all.

A list of the demands can be seen here.

GU vs Doshisha in the news across Japan

Between 12 and 13 August about 45 websites carried two Kyodo News stories outlining General Union plans to sue Doshisha University "Doshisha University: 30% reduction in salary for 60-year-old foreign associate professor goes to Labour Tribunal", and Doshisha Girls Junior and Senior High School, "Doshisha teachers request corrective guidance from the Labor Standards Inspection Office over 'unpaid wages'"

The articles outline the problems faced by General Union members and the union's plans to bring suit against Doshisha Educational Corporation on 19 August. On the same day the union will also file three separate unfair labour practices suits against the school for unequal treatment of union members and refusal to negotiate with the union.

Read more...

Mandatory Retirement as an "Unreasonable Dismissal”

The ongoing labour dispute at Shitennoji University (IBU)

Like the rest of Japan, the General Union is facing an aging membership and issues of retirement are at the forefront of our work. As a labour union, we do not want a society where everyone is forced to work till death, but we also recognise that many of our members are part time workers with no pensions and cannot simply retire.

Many of our members, especially at universities, are on unlimited term contracts and some universities, in an attempt to undermine this employment security, have established unreasonable retirement conditions despite the status of our members as unlimited term contract workers. While there is nothing in the law that bans the establishment of a retirement age, there is nothing in the law that limits how old you can be when you apply or get an unlimited term contract. This makes it highly unlikely that a retirement age set for only one or two years after conversion to an unlimited term contract can be considered reasonable. This is because these retirement regulations would be undermining the benefits set out in the Labour Contract Law. namely of employment security. 

In the case below, our dealings with the ministry of labour, is leading us to the conclusion that forced retirement, especially in cases where the unlimited term contract was granted for only a few years prior, could be treated as a unreasonable dismissal, not a retirement.

Read more...

Living and not surrendering to this coronavirus crisis caused by irresponsible politics

Special resolution for creating a movement to protect human life 
Osaka Zenrokyo (National Trade Union Council - Osaka) 

From the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 to the opening of this conference during the period when a fifth wave is about to begin, the coronavirus crisis has reached one year. With this continuing long pandemic, it has been a long period that both the labor movement and its various activities have had to be scaled back. However, with the spread of the coronavirus, dismissals and shift reductions, loaning out of employees, and so on, the burden has been shifted onto non-regular workers and women and the number of people suffering daily hardship has increased. For this reason, this was also a year of expectation among labor unions. Amid this, to say nothing of the lack of policy from the LDP-Komeito administration, foolish plans like the GoTo Travel campaign caused an explosion of infections and people were made to suffer even further.

Read more...

Working at a Private High School? .

2022 could be a dangerous year for you

Seminar & Survey

Download poster and send to a friend

The General Union represents many eikaiwas and university teachers, but many don’t know that we have a rather large contingent working at private elementary, and junior and senior high schools.

In 2022 there will be a major change in the national English curriculum guidelines. Simply put, “eikaiwa” or English Expression classes will be eliminated and replaced with a course called Logic Expression.

This could lead to a loss in work for foreign English teachers at private high schools. So far we have heard from members at two schools who have been able to give us rather concrete information.

Read more...

Hands Off! Don't Touch Our Koma! - Updated

Union begins survey of union members in preparation to defend 2022 koma.

Non-members also welcome to take the survey.

Every year since 2011, about this time of year the union begins thinking about our members' koma in the next year and how to prevent them from being reduced.

This is because we decided that the best way to prevent cuts in koma is not to wait till they are lost, but to act first. We do this by surveying members to check which university they want to declare their union membership to as part of our union demands for NO REDUCTION in their next year's koma. Most universities have reacted very well to this by not cutting union members’ koma.

Read more...

COVID-19 Safety at Gaba Corporation

safety1stThe General Union remains concerned about COVID-19 safety measures and transparency at Gaba Corporation. The union has been raising these issues since February 2020.

The company has taken some measures to improve safety, but has refused to allow teleworking, or even for instructors to only teach online lessons in the Learning Studio and not teach face-to-face lessons.

Japan continues to experience high numbers of COVID-19 cases. As of July 1st, it has an official death toll of 14,735. 11,276 of these were in 2021, which is only half over. The spread of the more infectious variants is a concern, especially as Gaba allows clients to drink in lessons, which involves removing their mask while sitting right next to the instructor.

Read more...

Just in Time for Summer - Vaccination Roll Out

Two months ago, in response to the state of emergency, the General Union issued a letter of inquiry to Japan’s six largest private English teaching companies (Aeon, NOVA, GABA, Shane, ECC, and Berlitz) asking them how they were going to protect the safety of their workers. Their responses were half-cooked at best, but we continued to fight to protect our members and win important concessions across Japan. 

Read more...

Eikaiwas and the Pandemic: Much Talk, Little Action – But we demand more!

The corona virus is something we are all sick of but with the third state of emergency in progress. We asked the six major eikaiwas in Japan what they are doing to prevent infection as well as requesting them to take measures that protect our members livelihoods in their time of need (aside from what the union had already forced many of them to do).

The six main eikaiwas we approached were: AEON, Berlitz, ECC, GABA, Nova and Shane.

Read more...

Fukuoka City ALTs and the Mysterious Case of the Missing Millions and Thousands of Classes

Via the Fukuoka General Union, here's a short video on the situation of ALTs in Fukuoka.

We imagine that the information in the video covers a lot more ALTs than just those in Fukuoka. 

Do you see your own situation in this video? Let us know - especially if you want to do something about it.

We Demand Safety First at GABA

The General Union has been raising safety issues with Gaba Corporation for many years, and this is a concern more than ever since the start of last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

This pandemic is not over and is getting worse in Japan. In all of 2020, Japan's official death toll was 3,459. It is only May 2021 and there have been over 8000 (official) deaths this year in Japan.

It is impossible to social distance inside a Gaba booth, where clients and instructors are speaking in a place with poor ventilation, usually about 90cm from each other. Wearing masks is not enough especially as masks do not block all viral particles. Wearing only a plastic face shield in online lessons creates risks for others in the Learning Studio.

As General Union members at GABA our job is to reduce COVID risk and therefore reduce the risk of death or serious illness. We want to keep ALL GABA employees and clients as safe as possible.

Read more...

Kobe Shoin Women's University Sued At Osaka Labour Commission

Uncooperative And Uncompromising: Kobe Shoin Wins Trip To Osaka

In the middle of a pandemic and state of emergency, Kobe Shoin Women's University did what no other university, board of education, or private company have done: they refused to hold negotiations online.

Not only did we ask for collective bargaining in the middle of a pandemic, the demands themselves were over keeping union members online after the state of emergency ended on 11 May.

Their answer? “Sure we'll meet you. Come to our university in Hyogo Prefecture after 19:00 and we'll be happy to chat."

Read more...

Hands Off! Don't touch our Koma!

Union launches campaign for NO REDUCTION in 2022 koma!

Every year since 2011, about this time of year the union begins thinking about our members' koma in the next year and how to prevent them from being reduced.

This is because we decided that the best way to prevent cuts in koma is not to wait till they are lost, but to act first. We do this by surveying members to check which university they want to declare their union membership to as part of our union demands for NO REDUCTION in their next year's koma. Most universities have reacted very well to this by not cutting union members’ koma.

For example, in the 2020 academic year...

Demands sent to: 37 universities covering 125 member jobs
No koma cuts: 34 universities covering 118 member jobs
Koma cut: 3 universities covering 6 member jobs

Read more...

Twice Aichi Pref Uni Has Backed Down Against the GU

Now it’s Time to Overturn the 20% Pay Cut & Win a Big Pay Rise for Japanese non-regular workers

(click the image to download a PDF for your friends)

Both Japanese and foreign non-regular workers at Aichi Prefectural University have something big in common: Twenty percent (or one-fifth) of your per-koma pay is what binds you together.

APU hopes that that they can use nationality to divide you and keep wages low, our union wants to get you together to improve your working life!

Read more...

Part-Time At A Doshisha University? Your Time Might Be Limited...

The union has made some progress in negotiations with Doshisha University and Doshisha Women's College, mainly in clearing up a previously unanswered mystery: how long can a part-timer work at Doshisha?

And the answer is...

It depends on when you were hired.

Doshisha has finally clarified that those hired from 1 April 2016 are limited to nine renewals, and those hired before have no limitation on their renewals.

In collective bargaining, Doshisha maintained that all teachers had a nine-renewal limit. We finally now have a clear answer to the question.

But why a nine-renewal limit?

It sounds strange to us, and we know it sounds strange to Doshisha part-timers who were hired in 2016.

Read more...

Osaka Prefecture Calls On Universities To Halt Face-To-Face Classes

At a press conference on 13th of April, amid a rapid growth of COVID-19 infections in the Osaka area, prefectural governor Yoshimura announced new measures to fight the pandemic.

These included a request for schools to stop club activities and for universities to suspend face to face classes and move to online classes.

Whilst for now this is only in the Osaka, area it marks a major break from the policy of the Education Ministry which had been pushing universities to teach at least 70% of classes online - with even teachers with pre-existing conditions (making them more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus) being pressured into teaching face-to-face.

The reversal was based on the failure of the existing policies of early closing of drinking/dining establishments to halt the spread. The rapid spread of the virus threatens to collapse the local health care system with over 92% of beds now full.

Read more...

Union Pushes Back As Kindai University's Policy Of "Business As Usual" Puts Members At Risk

kindai smallIn February, the General Union Kindai Branch held collective bargaining session with Kindai University, during which we demanded that teachers be given the option of teaching online if they had medical conditions that put them at increased risk of contracting COVID and/or becoming severely ill.

At the time, Kindai told us that they were still uncertain of their policies for the upcoming semester, and we were alarmed by the suggestion that a medical certificate would not be sufficient and that an interview with one of their administrative staff would be required.

Then began what seemed to be a never ending effort to delay and stonewall the talks and their policy decisions in an attempt (we believe) to discourage teachers from applying for exemptions at all - and to prevent a rush of applications that they feared may eventuate if word got out that some teachers had been granted exemptions several weeks before the semester commenced.

Read more...

Union Prepares Dispute Against Doshisha

For many months now the union has been trying to settle a number of different problems with Doshisha.

As you may know, Doshisha is a major and important institution in the Kansai area and as an organisation with a good reputation.

The union expects that they take their labour relations seriously and act responsibly to meet their obligations to their employees. 

As you can imagine we were shocked when Doshisha answered these obligations with intransigence and even fired back with contract non-renewals of union members working in the girls junior and senior high school.

So what problems was the union trying to settle?

Read more...

The GU knows what it's talking about when it comes to unlimited term contracts at universities

The union has been involved at numerous workplaces dealing with universities' refusal to grant unlimited term contracts after 5 years as per the changes to the Labour Contract Law (see here for more information on this law)

Many universities are holding out by using an exception granted to the universities which lets them wait till after the tenth year to grant an unlimited term contract. But this exception ISN'T in all cases and ISN'T for all instructors teaching in a university. Famously, even Tokyo University did a U-turn on this when challenged by it's union.

Basically, the instructor must be hired under any of the three categories outlined in the "Act on Term of Office of University Teachers" (often referred to as NINKI-TSUKI or NINKI-HO) or an of the three categories in the "Act on Revitalisation of Science and Technology/Inovation Creation", and told very clearly upon hiring, in writing, which category they fall into.

Most of the universities that we deal with have usually not done this at all, or have simply written the name of the act (or other such language) in the contract.

Read more...

Unlimited Term Contracts at Universities

The General Union, NUGW Tokyo Nambu, and Fukuoka General Union ran a seminar on 6 December for university teachers about unlimited term contracts.

Did you know that as of 2018, those having worked continuously for five years at the same university are eligible for an unlimited term contract?

Q: Unlimited term contract (UTC)? What’s that?

It’s an employment contract without an arbitrary end date and is a new right that came along with an amendment to the Labour Contract Law in 2013.

Many of us currently work on one-year contracts which require a renewal year to year, but a UTC requires no renewal. This means that if an employer wants to get rid of you, basically they would have to fire you; not just wait out the year and then refuse to give you another contract.

Does this mean you have a job for life with the exact number of koma on the same exact day and time? No, but it does mean that if all remains the same (student numbers, curriculum, etc) you can keep working and we would argue, should be able to retain your koma (the latter part has still to be tested out in court).

Read more...

Help Us Launch "A New Deal for ALTs"

Take the 2-minute ALT survey at www.bit.ly/surveyALT.

A common saying in the ALT world is “Everyone’s situation is different,” and this is very true. Our situation truly is different from the regular, licensed, teachers we work with every day. We are in the school, but are often not part of the school.

We are subjected to odd requirements. Many of us are not enrolled in the social safety nets that our fellow teachers are, especially those employed as dispatch ALTs.

We are not given bonuses (or if we are, we suddenly find our regular pay being cut to make up for it). We are not afforded the stability of a regular contract. Many are simply not paid enough to live in Japan while working a single job.

In short, we are deeply concerned that ALT jobs are being turned into poverty jobs. This not only affects the ALTs' livelihood, but also the quality of ALT programmes as many can simply no longer afford to be an ALT regardless of their passion for the work and their dedication to the students.

Read more...

University & College Pandemic Response - UPDATED

The General Union sent information requests to 75 universities and senmon gakko across Japan where members and consultees work.

We asked the following:

1. That all universities do not restart face-to-face classes from the second semester.

2. That teachers, especially those with either certified or uncertified underlying mental or physical health conditions or due to a more advanced age, or live with others in the same situation, be allowed to teach online.

3. As hybrid approaches that use both online and face-to-face lessons put a lot of extra burden on teachers, teachers not be required to prepare for hybrid approaches.

4. That your university be transparent in reporting outbreaks of Coronavirus at the institution" and/or "among faculties, students and staff".

Approximately one-third have responded, you can find the information of the universities we wrote to and those that responded by clicking here.

Additional information