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.

Here is what we requested:

Please outline your plans to limit and prevent infections, as we will be tracking the situation and making news available online.

Allow workers with underlying physical or mental conditions to take time off at full pay, including those with family members who have underlying conditions.

Stop cross-prefectural travel among your workers. In the case that accomplishing this would prevent workers from working, please pay them full wages.

Readers will note that these requests are rather tall orders. The expectation is not that employers would jump to act exactly on our recommendations, but we wanted to convey the spirit of what ought to be done, and allow these eikaiwas the opportunity to show us what they can give for the sake of their workers.

What they ended up giving was, to put it mildly, lacking.

For the most part, all the companies we contacted offered little more than polite words. Some companies, such as GABA and ECC, chose to be curter than their competitors, with ECC conserving its manpower by replying, simply, “we cannot do this” to our letter.

Nova and AEON confirmed that employees have access to a type of paid or unpaid leave they can apply to depending on their personal circumstances. Berlitz also told us that they provide an application for unpaid leave. We have heard only limited word on how useful these policies been, so if you have information, please to contact us at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> or <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

Uninspiring? Well, it does not get much better after that. The six eikaiwas basically made no commitment to introduce new policies to meet the new threat that the coronavirus presents us all with. They repeated that they continue to employ the same safety measures that everyone has been using for a year already: social distancing, temperature-monitoring, hand sanitizer, and maybe other things, depending on the workplace.

Some employers noted that they offer clients the choice to consume educational products remotely. For example, ECC allows clients to opt into Zoom classes and into “hybrid classes” in which PCs are placed in the middle of a classroom full of students learning live, and “hybrid students” participate via Zoom. There are basically no ways at any of these companies for educational professionals to opt into remote work easily.

GABA struck an interesting posture, declaring that it would not “refuse to allow” its instructors to work, ostensibly defending the freedom of its workers (a good posture as their instructors are deemed to be subcontractors).

So where does this leave workers? Here at the General Union, we have experienced success, both big and small, taking a variety of routes including collective demands and negotiations on behalf of individuals with special circumstances. We are happy for the wins that we help our members earn, but there is always more work to be done.

Therefore, we will continue communicating with employers about the matter.

Currently, we are preparing a second letter to these six eikiawas, asking for their cooperation with the government’s nascent vaccine rollout initiative. Employers can help their workers by providing translation and appointment-making services, and by making necessary schedule adjustments.

If you have questions or concerns about coronavirus and your workplace, we are more than happy to hear from you and help. File for a consultation at <https://www.generalunion.org/consultation>.


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