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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Unbelievable. Uncooperative. Unacceptable. NOVA Never Stops Surprising

The union entered our September 11th collective bargaining session with a positive attitude: NOVA, after a summer of strikes, had told us that they wanted to build a positive relationship with the union.

However, our hope for reaching an agreement on a number of issues (especially those regarding the pandemic) was deflated almost as soon as the talks began.

We had hoped that NOVA, like other employers in the language industry, would agree to a system to help prevent incidents of coronavirus infection by establishing an information sharing system with the union.

At other language school employers, the union sends a weekly list of issues in the schools which are potentially hazardous in regards to coronavirus prevention.

Basically, the union uses the many eyes of union members to make sure the schools are doing as much as possible to keep teachers, staff, and students, safe.

ECC commented that they were, "not only happy that the union initiated this system, but thankful for the union's full cooperation."

Keep reading and see if you can spot the difference between ECC and NOVA's response to our offer of help...

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Help us make GABA a better workplace for all by signing the petition

You too can back the union demands by signing our petition at www.bit.ly/gabapetition.

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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3 Student Lessons - Brought To You By The NOVA Branch Strikers

union winAfter a 100 lesson strike on August 1st, and a 150+ lesson strike on August 8th, NOVA has finally made some worthwhile concessions to the union members.

The union has received notice that lessons for adults will be reduced to a maximum of three adult students from August 16th, and kids classes will be reduced to 5 children from October 1st.

This will go a long way, along with other measures, to reduce the risk of the virus.

The union will also be submitting new demands to improve social distancing for union members.

Not only that, but this was achieved with only 35 people going on strike!

In addition, two of the members who were striking had previously been given a notice of contract non-renewals, and had the very same notices withdrawn DURING the strikes.

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