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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Sexual Harassment From Clients At Gaba Corporation

Sexual harassment from Gaba clients is an issue that the General Union has been concerned about for years now. We have raised it with Gaba both in negotiations and correspondence.

The problem has even received notice in the press, with several articles appearing in the Japan Times.

A major problem is that Gaba does not provide clear training for instructors on this issue.

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Emergency Drills At Gaba

Over recent years, the General Union has repeatedly raised the issue of holding emergency drills with Gaba.

In July, 2017, the union asked the company when it would conduct drills at all of the Learning Studios in the company.

However, as of the time of writing, the Akasaka, Akabane, Omotesando, Shinbashi-Shiodome, Seijo, Futakotamagawa and Kashiwa Learning Studios had not yet had drills, whereas some other Learning Studios have had several drills.

The company replied that it intended to hold drills at all studios.

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GABA - New System Training

In the lead-up to the new system in July, Gaba staff asked instructors to sign a "letter of understanding" about training for the new computer system. It was not clear whether this was mandatory or not.

As the company had previously tried to force instructors to do unpaid training, the General Union asked the company to clarify this. Gaba stated that signing the letter of understanding was not mandatory, nor was doing the training.

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No more duck and cover at Gaba

After requests from the General Union Gaba branch to improve emergency preparations, Gaba finally has an answer other than "duck and cover." From late July, Gaba Corporation is placing emergency supply boxes in all lesson booths in all Learning Studios across the country.

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Gaba Corporation to run emergency drills

After the union repeatedly raising the issue of disaster preparation Gaba Corporation is holding drills at 14 Learning Studios across Japan in the next few months. The drills are paid at the rate of two non-peak lessons.

This number of drills is a big improvement from 2014, when the company did none, and from 2013, when it did seven.

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Gaba Hides Client Sexual Harassment, Punishes Instructors

There is a Gaba client who was blocked from taking lessons from several female instructors for harassing them. Despite this, the company has refused to discontinue the client’s contract, has removed the 'special circumstances' note highlighting his behaviour from his file, and has repeatedly deleted comments inputed by an instructor who had been harassed by the client. They have gone so far as to give her a written warning for her actions.

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Absences or lateness due to typhoon weather

The union has been asked about this issue. Over this week there was very heavy rain across Japan making travel in some areas dangerous due to the passing typhoons. The union believes that instructors shouldn't be penalised because of any lateness or absences due to this extreme weather.

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Emergency Drills To Be Held At GABA "More Often"

At GABA, the last evacuations practised at learning studios were conducted two years ago, at only a small number of locations, with few instructors taking part.

While there are posters in Learning Studios advising what to do in the event of a disaster, there has been little real education or preparation to give instructors experience in knowing what to do or how to handle the situation when - not if - an earthquake occurs.

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Survey Results - Gaba Corporation emergency preparation

Recently the GU branch did a survey about emergency preparations at Gaba to see how instructors felt about the situation. The results were alarming.

0% of instructors received emergency training during initial certification (training) at Gaba.

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Gaba Home Study – Client’s Perspective is NOT mandatory

There has been some discussion about whether the current Mindflash training offered by Gaba is mandatory. While the GU believes that it is good for instructors to do training to help them teach as well as possible, the training is NOT mandatory.

Some instructors have been under the impression that it is, or that their schedule may be blocked if they do not do the training. This is not the case, and if instructors have any problems they are most welcome to contact the union about this.

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Disasters at Gaba Corporation

You are a Gaba Kids instructor. You have a shy five year old boy next to you who knows a lot of animal names and can count to 30 and reply to English greetings. You arrived in Japan six months ago and can barely speak any Japanese. An earthquake hits, your first.

The building shakes, the flimsy partition walls sway. You look at the glass above you and wonder - will it break? Someone told you a booth exploded in Omiya LS during the March 11th earthquake.

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Hiding Sexual Harassment by clients at Gaba

If you have been following our news you know that the union has dealt with sexual harassment of instructors by Gaba students.  Some cases have been quite extreme. Things improved to some degree when, frustrated by the lack of action by Gaba management, members went to The Japan Times.

The paper ran with the issue, publishing two articles on sexual harassment in eikaiwa in June and September last year. This forced Gaba to allow instructors to block inappropriate students from their schedules much more easily. At negotiations, a number of problematic students were discussed. One particular student was discussed in detail.

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We will not be intimidated by GABA!

Gaba negotiations, 2pm at our Osaka office tomorrow. If talks fail we will be taking a vote to launch an unfair labor practice case against the company. Preliminary permission has already been given but we want to make sure all members are on board.

We believe that under both the Constitution and the Trade Union Law, workers have the right to organise a union and that means distributing union materials - even on company premises.

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Gaba does care about our safety after all

The Metropolitan Tokyo Ordinance on Measures for Stranded Persons came into force in 2013. It states that companies in the Tokyo area must stock up on water, food and other provisions in case of emergencies and workers are stranded in the city.

The union submitted questions to Gaba asking for details of how they are complying with the law. For months, emails went back and forth between the union and Gaba, with the company being evasive about exact details. Finally though, we have been to nail them down.

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Gaba Instructor Christmas Party 2014

General Union Gaba Branch invites you to Super Jam Part Four - The Gaba Branch's third Christmas Party!

ゼネラルユニオンGABA支部があなたを招待GABA教師のクリスマス パーティー

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In the booth: Blocking sexual harassment

Instructors at Gaba in the past struggled to have clients who harassed them blocked. The GU brought this directly to the company last year, and Gaba changed the rules. No one should be harassed at work. Here it is in graphic form:

 

 

Disaster preparations at Gaba Corporation

Instructors who were at Gaba in 2011 will remember the trains stopping and the streets being clogged with cars. Some will also remember walking huge distances to get home in the middle of the night. The Tokyo government wants to prevent a repeat of this in the event of any future disaster.

On September 29th the union submitted a query to Gaba asking how they were complying with the Tokyo Metropolitan Govermment ordinance from April 2013 stating that companies should keep supplies in their offices in case of people being stranded in a disaster.  

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Sexual Harassment in Eikaiwa

The Japan Times has published another article dealing with incidents of sexual harassment in the English teaching industry. It is very sad that this kind of article is necessary, but it is. Sexual harassment in the workplace should not be accepted, and if it occurs it should be dealt with by employers. Unfortunately this is often not the case, particularly when the person doing the harassment is a client, as has happened at Gaba Corporation.

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A Christmas for Everyone

Christmas is for everyone. It may seem a little early to write about Christmas now, but at this time in 2013 Gaba Corporation were planning last year’s company Christmas party. Unfortunately instructors were not invited, which the union officially protested in negotiations with the company. Consequently, in June the union asked the company to invite instructors this time.

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Shimbashi LS Evacuation Poster Updated

At negotiations last week the General Union Gaba Branch asked the company a number of questions about emergency preparations, and showed a photo of the evacuation procedure poster in Shimbashi Learning Studio, which has been on the wall lacking an evacuation point for over 12 months. The company followed up on this and as seen below, there is now an evacuation point displayed at Shimbashi LS. The company is going to follow up all other LSs and ensure that they all have emergency posters with evacuation locations.

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Union asks Gaba to improve poor safety preparations

On March 11th, 2011 the fifth biggest earthquake ever recorded occurred east of Tohoku. Nearly 16,000 people died, over 2,600 are still missing and almost 130,000 buildings totally collapsed.

Instructors who were working that day know that Gaba Corporation was almost completely unprepared for this event, and the company's response was chaotic at best.

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Sexual Harassment at Gaba Corporation in the news

Last week the Japan Times published an article dealing with the issue of sexual harassment at Gaba Corporation. It featured interviews with a number of Gaba instructor who gave their accounts of sexual harassment while working at Gaba. The stories were horrific, and something that no one should ever have to put up with.

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Privacy protection - You don't need to let Gaba staff photograph your ID with their own phone

We like to think that we're all pretty tech savy, security conscious and not easily led. That being said, I know how easy it can be to agree to something that makes you feel a little uneasy, just to avoid the hassle of kicking up a fuss.

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Gaba Branch Spring Party 2014 - Spring Smash!

On Sunday April 13th the Gaba branch had its fifth social event in the last 18 months. We held our first Christmas party at The Pink Cow in Roppongi in December 2012, then Hanami in Yoyogi Park in April 2013. We then relocated to What The Dickens in Ebisu, a great British pub and live space only a few minutes from Ebisu station.

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Harassing Gaba clients can be blocked - Here is how:

Many instructors are not aware that clients can be blocked, and think that they simply have to put up with bad treatment. This impression leads to problems, particularly in regards to sexual harassment from clients.  

It is now well established that the quality of support that instructors receive when reporting incidents of sexual harassment is patchy at best. As such, the union brought it up as an issue in 2013 negotiations and has been pursuing the issue ever since.

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General Union Gaba Branch appoints Sexual Harassment Officers

In response to a number of incidents where Gaba instructors had been sexually harassed by clients, the union decided to investigate the issue, and conducted a survey to gauge the prevalence. 

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Protecting personal information at Gaba

The union had received reports that some Gaba staff have not been following the company’s procedures and protecting instructors' information adequately.

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Gaba lesson record Mindflash training: "NOT mandatory"

In case instructors were wondering, despite the impression given by the latest MGI post on March 18th, the Mindflash training for the new lesson record system is not mandatory, and instructors cannot be forced to do it. If you receive any coercion to do so, please report it to the union so we can take up the case.

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Making a good job better - 2013 In Review

2013 was a very good year for the General Union Gaba branch. It was different to all previous years for the agreements that we managed to make with the company and in the amount of social activities we organized to bring instructors together. We’re looking forward to making 2014 another year where we make a good job better – and we would love to have your help.

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Santa wants to know why!

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Gaba's Slap in the Face to Instructors

Gaba Corporation has decided to hold a year-end party at Tokyo’s prestigious Imperial Hotel for all their Kanto region staff, and as such they have closed all 30 Kanto Learning Studios for the last three lessons on Sunday December 15th.

Unfortunately, you, I and the thousand or so other instructors are not invited.

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ECC and Gaba hold Christmas parties; teachers considered second class and not invited

Two of the largest English School chains, Gaba and ECC, have held, or are about to hold Christmas parties. Unfortunately, regular teachers/instructors are not invited! The companies have invited both school and office staff in appreciation of their hard work but fail to recognize the hard work put in by teachers. ECC teachers were left to look at pictures of a luxury hotel party posted on Facebook by their coworkers.

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Gaba Branch Update - November 2013

October was a very sad and unusual month for the General Union Gaba Branch, with the disappearance of member Pascal Burel while hiking. The branch had never experienced anything like this before, but Pascal's fellow members, friends and coworkers rallied around to raise money and spread the word about the search. While the situation is very bad, and we hope nothing like this ever occurs again, the union managed to play a role in raising the profile of the case and helping to financially support the search.

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"Unexcused" absences: Cold and Flu season at Gaba

'Twas the night before Christmas, and in every LS,

We could hear the sound of instructors trying to suppress,

Their coughing and sniffling with the greatest of care,

Thinking to themselves that this wasn’t quite fair.

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General Union and Gaba Corporation sign grievance procedure agreement

Under the Trade Union Law, companies in Japan must hold collective bargaining with unions. But they are not legally required to deal with individual problems raised by employees. In other words, if you wanted to legally ensure that you were heard at Gaba you needed to submit collective bargaining requests through the union, decide on a date, then spare a day, have a prior-approved agenda, a translator, and approximately six volunteers to argue your case.

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Gaba Branch Update - October 2013

The Gaba branch is always busy working on various issues to improve the working lives of instructors. Some issues are large, such as overall pay rates and conditions. Others are smaller, and may only deal with a situation being faced by only one instructor. But all of them are important, and instructors who are experiencing any difficulties in their work at Gaba are encouraged to contact the union.

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August 2013 Gaba Negotiations - new issues covered

On Monday August 26, 2013 the Gaba Branch of the GU held negotiations with Gaba Corporation. Topics discussed included three main topics: paid training, a proper grievance procedure for dealing with workplace problems, and also the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

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