About us

What is the General Union?
The General Union is a legally registered labour/trade union, part of the Japanese labour union movement, and we are open to workers of any category or nationality. Since it was founded in 1991, our union has established a solid reputation for protecting its members' rights and improving their working conditions. We are workers like you who have joined together to protect our livelihoods and rights as workers. As a union, we are able to provide our members advice on workplace issues, and we actively help our members to organize and negotiate in their workplaces.

The General Union is part of a national private sector trade union known as the National Union of General Workers (Zenkoku-Ippan). We belong to a confederation known as Zenrokyo (National Trade Union Council).



General Union Affiliation and Structure


We share close links with our sister union, 
NUGW Tokyo-South



Who can join?
The majority of our members are teachers and staff at conversation schools, public and private schools, and universities. However, our union is open to any full time or part time worker regardless of nationality. You probably have friends or coworkers who are already General Union members; ask around.


How can the union help me and my coworkers?
We help by offering advice and concrete support on how you and your coworkers can form and run a union branch at your school or company. The size and determination of your branch are both important considerations in deciding what improvements your branch can achieve. When you and your coworkers are ready, experienced Japanese and foreign members of the General Union will assist you in negotiating collective agreements with your company. Our experience shows that when people join together, they can win significant improvements.


I would like to express a sincere thanks to you for not only achieving a satisfactory resolution to a wrong done to me, but also for your support...  
A. Member (2003)


Could I lose my job if I join?
Most companies are reluctant to pick a fight with a strong union. Since the General Union was formed, we have had a small number of cases involving the firing or non-renewal of union members - almost all of which have resulted in reinstatement or satisfactory settlements. On the other hand, we regularly receive calls from non-union members who have been fired or not renewed. An employer can fire a non-union worker for complaining about their pay and conditions. On the other hand, a union member whose union raises the same issues in negotiations is protected by Article 28 of the Constitution and Article 7 of the Trade Union Law.


How much are union dues?
Union dues range from 500 to 5000 yen depending on your income. (see www.generalunion.org/union-dues for a full breakdown). In cases of special circumstances such as financial hardship, maternity leave, or extended leave due to illness, the union may be able to waive or reduce the dues. Dues, once paid, are non-refundable. Your dues pay for the staff, union office, telephones, meetings, transportation, and general operating expenses. Your dues also cover our affiliation fees to both our national union (National Union of General Workers) and our union federation (National Trade Union Council). Our membership in these two organizations ensures that we have contact and support not only from other foreign union members in Japan, but also Japanese workers from other unions.


Why should I join the union?
Different people join the union for different reasons. Some join in the hope of improving working conditions; others to prevent a decline in their current conditions. Many join simply because they believe in unions and agree with the work that we do. Whatever your reason we suggest that you do join and also encourage your coworkers to join.


How do I join?
Joining is simple. Either you can click on the joining link or if you prefer we can set up a time to talk about the union and then you can decide if you want to join.


Thanks for nothing, in the nicest possible way. Fortunately, I have not needed the union, but it is nice to know that it is there for those who do need it. For that reason I believe in unions and have supported the GU. It's time for me to pull the pin on Japan; hence it's time for me to resign my membership of the Union. I have paid up until December 2003; please keep the extra fees as a donation. 
A. Member
(August 2003)


Helping each other
At some companies, we set up branches in order to deal with a specific workplace, but we do encourage all members to help other union members regardless of their workplace or the industry in which they belong. Our union is strong because we represent workers in a whole industry rather than in just one workplace. Your union membership is valid even if you work at more than one company, and remains valid upon changing jobs.


Making it better for everyone
The General Union has a reputation for winning. We've won legally entitled paid holidays, the end of contract limits, unfair dismissals, payment of unpaid wages and overtime, and pay increases. If you're interested in making your workplace a better place for teachers, staff, and students then you should call the union and find out more about how to make this possible.


What is a fair deal?
What is fair and reasonable isn't simply a matter of employers following the minimum standards set in the law. The law does not require an employer to give pay rises and the minimum wage in Japan is less than 700 yen an hour. On the other hand, without you and your coworkers, your company can't run. The least that you should expect is a fair share and a say in what happens at your workplace. The General Union considers all of the following to be both fair and reasonable:


* Regular pay rises

* A work environment that promotes professional development and quality education

* Paid National Holidays

* At least 10 flexible paid vacation days per year

* Contracts without artificial one year term limits

* No arbitrary/unfair dismissals or non-renewals

* Overtime pay if you work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week

* No discrimination based on nationality, race, language, gender, age, or sexual orientation

* Paid maternity and paternity leave

* Regular payment of wages in full on a set date

* Enrollment in Unemployment Insurance


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Additional information