News

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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Is GETTING PAID ON TIME Too Much To Ask For At NPO GLAD? (OP-ED)

This is what I (a member of the General Union) asked myself when I worked there.

For the past couple of years, the union has been dealing with one primary issue at this ALT dispatch company: the delayed payment of wages.

For me it started like this. Just before my salary was due, I received an email from the company director claiming that they had some vague banking problems that were causing delays.

Have you ever heard of something like this before? To me it sounded like something else...

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New 2020 System Leads To Wage Cuts For ALTs

alt cuts money august 2020The General Union has been dealing with consultations and grievances from union and non-union members at many different boards of education regarding pay cuts since the new “KAIKEI NENDO NINYO SHOKUIN” system went into place for direct-hire ALTs.

As part of the new system, bonuses are allowed (but not mandated), so many boards of education have started to pay bonuses in June and December. Great!

Unfortunately, even with bonuses, many people have seen their salaries stay the same as they were before the “KAIKEI NENDO NINYO SHOKUIN” system took effect, and some have even seen their salary reduced...

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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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Demands Sent To 75 Universities And Colleges To Stop Face-to-Face Lessons

stop face to faceAfter a meeting attended by union members working in universities and professional training colleges (senmon gakko), due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the General Union has submitted demands to 75 universities.

You can find the responses as they come in by clicking here.

Union members view the possibility of a return to face-to face-lessons amidst an explosive new growth in coronavirus infections with both anxiety and alarm.

While we understand that many universities are being pressured by MEXT and even parents to reopen campuses as soon as possible, if university campuses resume face-to-face lessons thousands of employees and students will be put at risk.

There is now considerable evidence that university age students, although less likely to develop serious symptoms, can be a major vector in the spread of the virus to those working in universities, to their classmates, and to their families.

Our members and our union believe that the resumption of on-campus classes at the present time would be a disastrous move from the standpoint of public health.

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August 1st, 2020: NOVA Members Strike 100 Classes! What's Next?

Asked how she felt about being part of the largest strike to hit NOVA, tone union member answered, "I'm not proud of having to do this to NOVA. We're desperate. But I am not ashamed of standing up for other teachers', staff's, and students' safety."

As COVID-19 restarts its surge across Japan, and July 31st brought another record-breaking day of infections, NOVA union members went on strike across Japan, registering 100 struck classes.

After five rounds of collective bargaining - with most emphasis being placed on safety during the pandemic - no substantial agreement could be reached.

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Obituary: Remembering Yamahara Katsuji 1947 - 2020

He was known popularly to General Union members simply as Yamahara. No mister, no sir; just affectionately called Yamahara - and one of the most unpretentious people you could have ever met.

On 23 July 2020, Yamahara passed away quietly at his home 73 years after his birth in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka.

A union organiser since finishing school, Yamahara worked for many years for the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Sohyo) affiliated Metal and Machinery Workers Union (Zenkin) until its merger into the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).

During this time, he was a prominent Kansai area organiser not only due to his excellent strategies and tactics in protecting workers’ rights and lives, but also for his continuous efforts in strengthening ties between Japanese and international workers especially in Asia.

In his mid-forties, while many gave up on the idea that the Japanese labour movement could remain vibrant, he left Zenkin in order to organise a union that would be there for all workers and founded the General Union in 1991.

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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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NOVA: Safety Survey, Public Meeting, & STRIKE

Is your workplace safe during coronavirus? Take the workplace safety survey.
 
Want more information on the union and how you can force NOVA to take coronavirus more seriously? Attend open meeting, Saturday, 2 May at 20:00

Members vote overwhelmingly to strike - press picks up story
 
Nova Members of the General Union have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action against NOVA if demands for work at home and other issues are not resolved after our next collective bargaining session.

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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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Strike NOVA!

Emergency Meeting for NOVA members and other instructors/staff

Friday, 24 April at 10:00 and 22:00 (RSVP HERE)

Collective bargaining on Wednesday yielded very little. Usually collective bargaining does not deliver much the first time, but since we are racing the clock, we do not have time to spend weeks talking and must prepare for some activity on our part that will move the company to reason. So, we believe it is time to take a strike vote. This is rather fast, but the situation is urgent. At the meetings on Friday, we will discuss the situation and what a strike means in Japan and then ballot members to decide.

Some information about strikes:

  • They cannot fine you for striking, like they do with the independent contractors who take time off.
  • They cannot fine you for striking, like they do if you apply later than a month for paid leave.
  • Strikes are probably the most protected of trade union activities in Japan and you cannot legally be punished for taking part.

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We Demand NOVA Shutdown And Pay Workers To Work At Home. Please Email And Share!

#shutdownNOVA #NOVApay100 

You can help the General Union and those working at NOVA by immediately sending an email to NOVA Holdings and NOVA, asking them to meet the union's demands:

CAMPAIGN HAS NOW ENDED

Union Demands to NOVA Holdings and NOVA:

  • Close NOVA branches and pay 100% to work from home.

  • If there is insufficient work, use the employment adjustment fund subsidies to cover wages for those not working.

  • No fines for contractors choosing to not work and return all fines paid to date to current contractors.

  • Immediately stop the subcontracting system and make these workers employees so if there is not enough work NOVA can use the employment adjust fund. If not possible, NOVA should pay 100 percent of the guarantee if there is no work.

  • Immediately stop all cross-prefecture travel for employees and contractors.

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NOVA, "Freelancers", and the Coronavirus

no vaThe epidemic is throwing into sharp relief some of tricks used by companies; for what is merely anti-social and exploitative in normal times is potentially deadly in an epidemic.

Employers have long used spurious "freelance" contracts in an attempt to evade labour laws and obligations to enroll people in the pension and health insurance.

One of those companies is NOVA.

As we have reported previously, NOVA are presently telling teachers to work or stay at home without pay, even though language conversation classes are hardly an essential service.

The General Union has argued that these “contractors” are in reality workers - and the Nagoya District Court agrees with us.

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Hats Off To Osaka Gaigo Members - Two Annual Pay Rises In A Row!

hats offThis is what determination looks like!

Osaka Gaigo members win 1.3% across the board pay raise for 2020.

This on top of a 2% 2019 pay rise!

Want to win improvements at your workplace? Osaka Gaigo members show you what you can achieve with determination.

Back in 2013, despite falling teacher and student numbers, the General Union's Osaka Gaigo Branch decided that it was time to stop the long freeze on their pay.

The reasoning was simple: although student numbers were declining, the school was replacing retiring full-time regular and contract workers with part-timers, thus reducing their costs.

Furthermore, we clearly knew that their Tokyo school was doing very well and was building a new campus.

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GU Organizes at Nagoya International School

nagoya gu sexual harassmentOn January 16th (2020), the General Union filed a case against Nagoya International School at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission.

Staff have raised a number of issues that they have with the school in conversations with the union, including difference in conditions between "local" and "foreign" hires being enrolled in social insurance (Shakai Hoken), maternity leave, annual leave, issues with evaluation and promotion, and issues with the way management have dealt with teachers.

However, the trigger that initially sparked interest in unionization was the way that management mis-handled a sexual harassment complaint.

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General Union Puts NOVA On Notice

Will the Neyagawa City Board of Education be hit by the first ever strike of dispatch ALTs in western Japan?

Could you live on 93,000 a month? Well, by some magical formula and/or equation that is known to only NOVA, ALTs hibernate in August.

ALTs (they apparently believe) also eat less than usual in December, January, and March, but a bit more than they do August, as they're only in a state of semi-hibernation during these months.

We all know NOVA's rationale, and some at this point might even believe it's fair to pay less because the teachers are working less during these months.

However, are these ALTs really "part-timers"?

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5% Wage Demand at Osaka Gaigo

Union members who were involved in a long labour dispute with their employer from 2013 which culminated in the Supreme Court turning down the school's refusal to follow the Osaka Labour Commission ruling ordering the employer to share financial data with the union, have submitted demands for 5% pay increase as well as access to financial data.

While members secured a 2% increase in 2019, we feel that asking for an additional pay increase after the school's stalling tactics of filing appeal after appeal since 2013, is very reasonable. Members note another increase in student numbers (still to be clearly established as it's only February) which points to the employer's improved financial situation and ability to increase pay.

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Making Berlitz Better

Union members at Berlitz became the second union branch to submit demands for a 2% increase in pay (over and above their regular evaluated pay increases) to offset the increases in the consumption tax since 2014.

Members believe that while pay has increased a little based on their individual evaluations, the importance of this pay raise, meant to reward performance only, is lost if is eroded by tax increases. Therefore, members are asking for a pay increase to rebalance their salaries from when the sales tax rate doubled from 5% to 10%.

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General Union vs Osaka Shoin - Trial begins – Osaka District Court

3 February 2020 13:10 

On 31 March 2018 a General Union member was dismissed by Osaka Shoin High School specifically to stop him from working past a year and gaining the right to apply for an unlimited-term contract. On 25 June 2018, the member, with the aid of the union, filed a case against the dismissal at the Osaka District Court claiming the dismissal to be invalid.

After months of document exchanges in court, the case is set to come to trial on 3 February from 1310 to 1600 and we need you in court to support your fellow member and to show that we will not accept the dismissal of union members and employers who flaunt the law to get out of their obligations. RSVP your attendance.

Both our member (in Japanese with English translation) and a witness from Osaka Shoin will be examined and cross examined on the day of the trial.

Unlimited-term contracts are the law of the land, but that means nothing if employers can just stop these new contracts by firing you before you can even apply. It’s up to us to defend this important new law and let all employers know that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. RSVP your attendance at the Osaka District Court on 3 February (meetup place is Yodoyabashi Station Exit 1 at 12:20 or go directly to Osaka Court Room 809 by at least 13:00).

Learn more about this history of this dispute by clicking here.

Working at a board of education?

We will be holding an open meeting for all directly hired and dispatched teachers working at boards of education on Wednesday, 22 January from 1900 at the union office or via skype. Please RSVP if you plan to attend as seating is limited.

As you know, there are big changes taking place to the system for directly hired teachers starting in 2020 which may lead to jobs being outsourced or even cuts to wages. Dispatched teachers also face ever deteriorating working conditions which are often markedly worse than those working as directly hired teachers.

We don’t think that these two groups of workers should be fighting separately to improve their working conditions, but will have a better chance as dealing as one body especially in terms of how the General Union deals with ALT issues with the central government.

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Santa Claus Prepares for Annual ECC Visit

On 15 December ECC members at the General Union (western Japan and Tokai) and Tokyo Roso (Kanto area) held a joint branch meeting to discuss and decide our demands for the 2020 academic year. 

These demands are usually submitted around this time of the year and when we called the company to say that we were sending our demands on the week of the 23rd of December, they joked that it was the annual Christmas present from the union. So we hope readers will allow us the kitschy image we've used in this article.

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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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Good News for Berlitz Members as Union Improves Pay and Other Conditions

On Friday, October 12th, collective bargaining for 2019 working conditions finally ended, and both parties concluded a collective agreement.

This is the first ever collective agreement with Berlitz that offers pay increases outside of the current evaluated pay increase system.

While the agreement is limited in scope and only covers some members who were not eligible for an evaluation or were maxed out on pay increases, it is a major breakthrough at a company who has only ever given pay increases based on evaluation.

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Union Wins At Nagoya District Court: Nova's "Independent Contractors" Actually Employees

● Union members on individual contractor agreements ruled to be employees

● Court orders payment of damages to loss of paid holidays under the Labour Standards Law.

● Court also orders damages for failure to enrol in health and pension insurance.

● Nagoya court rules that 40 lesson contract employees are actually eligible for enrolment in health and pension insurance.

A judgement in a case filed against NOVA by six general union members in 2016 was handed down on September 24th (2019).

Nova employed the six members as independent contractors to work as teachers right alongside employees who were also teachers. Nova has gradually tried to increase the number of contractors working as teachers in order to weaken employment rights.

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Unfair Labor Practices at Kansai Gaidai

kansai gaidai signThe General Union has sued Kansai Gaidai University (KGU) and SEICO at the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission for unfair labor practices stemming from their violations of the Trade Union Law. We are asking for the following:

1. Stop anti-union activities and apologize publicly.

2. Continue the employment of union members.

3. Increase the number of directly employed faculty by giving preference to existing workers on limited term contracts employed by the university and SEICO.

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Survey of Over 1,700 Boards of Education

Two weeks ago, the General Union (in cooperation with our national union headquarters and sister unions) sent out a report to every board of education (BOE) in the country in regards to Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs).

As of September 13th (2019), we have received over 600 responses -much higher than our usual average in more limited surveys.

The survey follows the types of employment contracts for ALTs, illegal/improper dispatching, and - most importantly - what BOEs plan to do in regards to direct hire ALTs in 2020 when changes to the Local Civil Servants Law come into effect.

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Additional information