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The recent coronavirus outbreak has highlighted serious inadequacies such as a lack of physical and financial security for Gaba instructors. The company has faced various disasters such as the March 11th 2011 triple disaster, Typhoon Hagibis #19 in 2019, and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

While Gaba continually makes changes to the contract to suit the operational concerns of the company, such as the introduction of the recent online lessons, Gaba does not likewise amend the contract to respond to important issues for instructors.

When it responds to these, it does so on an ad hoc basis in the form of temporary changes such as with a “Letter of Understanding” which also does not fully take into consideration the voices of instructors. These are also done unilaterally.

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GABA: COVID-19 Case At Ikebukuro Learning Studio

On Monday August 10th, GABA closed its Ikebukuro Learning Studio (LS) after an instructor contracted COVID-19.

The LS was closed on the evening of August 10th, the whole day of August 11th, and then extended to August 12th.

On August 13th, the LS opened for lessons again.

GABA’s transparency in this case has improved from the Omotesando LS case, where only Omotesando instructors were told about an ill client at their LS, without details, and the Jiyugaoka LS case, where a client with COVID-19 was hospitalized and passed away shortly after taking GABA lessons.

In that case, GABA never officially informed instructors or staff, nor did it publish anything on its website.

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GABA: Union Demands More Transparency Over COVID-19 Concerns

The General Union has learned that a client from Gaba Corporation's Jiyugaoka Learning Studio (LS) passed away from COVID-19.

Gaba Corporation has not communicated this to instructors, regular staff, or anyone else.

According to the WHO guidelines used by Japan's Public Health Centers, people should be traced from two days before the onset of disease.

Regardless of these guidelines, the company should have informed instructors and all staff of what occurred, especially as it was already aware of the Omotesando case.

It is unacceptable to just ignore what happened and not tell anyone.

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Gaba Corporation Hides COVID-19 Case From Instructors

gaba covid 19As prefectures across Japan leave the state of emergency, Gaba Corporation is reopening its Learning Studios, and the union hopes for the best.

However, it is concerned about something that has come to light and the company's response to it:

The company avoided telling instructors about a COVID-19 case that occurred at the company.

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Looking Out For Instructors At Gaba Corporation

In 2020 Japan, like many countries around the world, has been grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The General Union has been in contact with Gaba Corporation about this since February, before the first Learning Studio shutdown.

We have been following up issues of safety and financial security as the situation has developed.

The health and safety of instructors, clients and staff is the top priority for the General Union.

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Safety at GABA

earthquake drill2019 has seen a number of news stories that relate to safety. In the course of daily life there are various workplace accidents and disasters even in office-style workplaces.

Since the Tohoku Earthquake on 11 March 2011, the General Union Gaba Branch has been raising the issue of safety preparations at Gaba as the company didn’t seem to be at all prepared for such a disaster.

The company has responded to the union’s concerns by conducting semi-regular evacuation drills at Learning Studios and has provided emergency supplies to all lesson booths.

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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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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.

Is Schedule Flexibility At Risk At Gaba?

Instructors at Gaba have always been able to submit their schedules for times they would like to work and have them approved and made available for clients to book without impediments. This flexibility is one of the main reasons why many people choose to work at Gaba.

This seems to have changed since the implementation of the new booking system at the beginning of 2018.

Schedules have been rejected and instructors are now being asked or directed to submit schedules for times they do not wish to work. 

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Gaba: Instructors Views On The New Schedule Submission System

The General Union has sent correspondence to Gaba about the new schedule submission system, and will hear back on April 16th.

In the meantime, here are a few of the many responses we received from instructors to our anonymous instructor survey:

"Gaba is still enticing new instructors to join the company with the promise of flexibility in their schedules, which is no longer the case."

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Injuries And Compensation At Gaba

Below, you'll see a Gaba lesson booth as it was on March 11th, 2011. It is now seven years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Several Kanto area learning studios were damaged that day.

Instructors who were at Gaba during and after the disaster will no doubt remember the disorganization at the company, the lack of preparation, and the fact the company decided it was a good idea to open on March 12th.

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Gaba Instructor Schedule Survey

Instructors at Gaba have been expressing discontent with the recent changes to Gaba's scheduling system.

Many Instructors work at Gaba largely because of the flexibility it offers, but that flexibility has been dramatically decreased in recent months.

A large number of instructors have spoken to the union expressing their view that flexibility is decreasing.

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Harassed By A Student At Gaba?

As we previously mentioned ("Gaba Corporation Meets General Union's Demands - Client Blocking Procedure Published"), Gaba has recently published its (2013) guidelines on blocking clients who have been involved in harassment.

Although we already provided these instructions in our previous article, they bear repeating because the guidelines are not easy to find without a determined search of the intranet, or without someone physically being able to show them to another instructor in person.

If you work for Gaba and need to locate these guidelines, here's what to do.

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Gaba Corporation Meets General Union's Demands - Client Blocking Procedure Published

sexual harassmentThe General Union has been raising the issue of harassment of instructors by clients with Gaba since 2013, and this has not been an easy process.

Instructors reported a number of cases of sexual harassment by clients, and how they were dealt with poorly by Gaba management.

There was a desire to ignore harassment and to encourage instructors to put up with it.

As recent news stories have shown, this is unfortunately common in many organizations all around the world - particularly when there is money to be made.

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Gaba And Coco Juku To Merge

Earlier this month, the Nikkei newspaper ran an article about an upcoming merger between Gaba and Coco Juku. These are both English conversation schools owned by Nichii Gakkan. Gaba was purchased by Nichii Gakkan in 2011, and Coco Juku was founded in 2012. Although both currently teach English to children and adults alike, Coco Juku has a focus on group lessons.

According to the Nikkei article, from next year, the companies will shift their focus: Gaba will focus on teaching lessons to adults, while Coco Juku will focus on lessons for children.

It remains to be seen what this will mean for instructors at either of the conversation schools.

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