Higher Education

Kobe Shoin Women's University Sued At Osaka Labour Commission

Uncooperative And Uncompromising: Kobe Shoin Wins Trip To Osaka

In the middle of a pandemic and state of emergency, Kobe Shoin Women's University did what no other university, board of education, or private company have done: they refused to hold negotiations online.

Not only did we ask for collective bargaining in the middle of a pandemic, the demands themselves were over keeping union members online after the state of emergency ended on 11 May.

Their answer? “Sure we'll meet you. Come to our university in Hyogo Prefecture after 19:00 and we'll be happy to chat."

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Hands Off! Don't touch our Koma!

Union launches campaign for NO REDUCTION in 2022 koma!

Every year since 2011, about this time of year the union begins thinking about our members' koma in the next year and how to prevent them from being reduced.

This is because we decided that the best way to prevent cuts in koma is not to wait till they are lost, but to act first. We do this by surveying members to check which university they want to declare their union membership to as part of our union demands for NO REDUCTION in their next year's koma. Most universities have reacted very well to this by not cutting union members’ koma.

For example, in the 2020 academic year...

Demands sent to: 37 universities covering 125 member jobs
No koma cuts: 34 universities covering 118 member jobs
Koma cut: 3 universities covering 6 member jobs

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Part-Time At A Doshisha University? Your Time Might Be Limited...

The union has made some progress in negotiations with Doshisha University and Doshisha Women's College, mainly in clearing up a previously unanswered mystery: how long can a part-timer work at Doshisha?

And the answer is...

It depends on when you were hired.

Doshisha has finally clarified that those hired from 1 April 2016 are limited to nine renewals, and those hired before have no limitation on their renewals.

In collective bargaining, Doshisha maintained that all teachers had a nine-renewal limit. We finally now have a clear answer to the question.

But why a nine-renewal limit?

It sounds strange to us, and we know it sounds strange to Doshisha part-timers who were hired in 2016.

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Osaka Prefecture Calls On Universities To Halt Face-To-Face Classes

At a press conference on 13th of April, amid a rapid growth of COVID-19 infections in the Osaka area, prefectural governor Yoshimura announced new measures to fight the pandemic.

These included a request for schools to stop club activities and for universities to suspend face to face classes and move to online classes.

Whilst for now this is only in the Osaka, area it marks a major break from the policy of the Education Ministry which had been pushing universities to teach at least 70% of classes online - with even teachers with pre-existing conditions (making them more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus) being pressured into teaching face-to-face.

The reversal was based on the failure of the existing policies of early closing of drinking/dining establishments to halt the spread. The rapid spread of the virus threatens to collapse the local health care system with over 92% of beds now full.

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Union Pushes Back As Kindai University's Policy Of "Business As Usual" Puts Members At Risk

kindai smallIn February, the General Union Kindai Branch held collective bargaining session with Kindai University, during which we demanded that teachers be given the option of teaching online if they had medical conditions that put them at increased risk of contracting COVID and/or becoming severely ill.

At the time, Kindai told us that they were still uncertain of their policies for the upcoming semester, and we were alarmed by the suggestion that a medical certificate would not be sufficient and that an interview with one of their administrative staff would be required.

Then began what seemed to be a never ending effort to delay and stonewall the talks and their policy decisions in an attempt (we believe) to discourage teachers from applying for exemptions at all - and to prevent a rush of applications that they feared may eventuate if word got out that some teachers had been granted exemptions several weeks before the semester commenced.

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Union Prepares Dispute Against Doshisha

For many months now the union has been trying to settle a number of different problems with Doshisha.

As you may know, Doshisha is a major and important institution in the Kansai area and as an organisation with a good reputation.

The union expects that they take their labour relations seriously and act responsibly to meet their obligations to their employees. 

As you can imagine we were shocked when Doshisha answered these obligations with intransigence and even fired back with contract non-renewals of union members working in the girls junior and senior high school.

So what problems was the union trying to settle?

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The GU knows what it's talking about when it comes to unlimited term contracts at universities

The union has been involved at numerous workplaces dealing with universities' refusal to grant unlimited term contracts after 5 years as per the changes to the Labour Contract Law (see here for more information on this law)

Many universities are holding out by using an exception granted to the universities which lets them wait till after the tenth year to grant an unlimited term contract. But this exception ISN'T in all cases and ISN'T for all instructors teaching in a university. Famously, even Tokyo University did a U-turn on this when challenged by it's union.

Basically, the instructor must be hired under any of the three categories outlined in the "Act on Term of Office of University Teachers" (often referred to as NINKI-TSUKI or NINKI-HO) or an of the three categories in the "Act on Revitalisation of Science and Technology/Inovation Creation", and told very clearly upon hiring, in writing, which category they fall into.

Most of the universities that we deal with have usually not done this at all, or have simply written the name of the act (or other such language) in the contract.

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University & College Pandemic Response - UPDATED

The General Union sent information requests to 75 universities and senmon gakko across Japan where members and consultees work.

We asked the following:

1. That all universities do not restart face-to-face classes from the second semester.

2. That teachers, especially those with either certified or uncertified underlying mental or physical health conditions or due to a more advanced age, or live with others in the same situation, be allowed to teach online.

3. As hybrid approaches that use both online and face-to-face lessons put a lot of extra burden on teachers, teachers not be required to prepare for hybrid approaches.

4. That your university be transparent in reporting outbreaks of Coronavirus at the institution" and/or "among faculties, students and staff".

Approximately one-third have responded, you can find the information of the universities we wrote to and those that responded by clicking here.

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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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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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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Stop Harassment at Sophia University - Sign The Petition

Sign the Petition!

Professor Choo, a member of NUGW Tokyo Nambu, is fighting against her dismissal at Sophia University.

Sophia University issued a de facto dismissal notice on July 17, 2019 to Professor Kukhee Choo of the Faculty of Liberal Arts Department.

Professor Kukhee Choo left her university in the United Sates to join Sophia University as an Assistant Professor 5 years ago after being told by the FLA Department that, "As for promotion to Associate Professor, with your record, we strongly feel that you may be able to apply for [tenure] as early as your second year at the FLA".

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General Union Sues Sugiyama Jogakuen Educational Corporation At Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission

Sugiyama Jogakuen Educational Corporation, having repeatedly broken the law, was on its last chance to resolve things voluntarily through negotiation.

After that, the Corporation responded to the General Union’s demand for collective bargaining by saying that "the decision of our Board of Trustees is not going to change, so holding collective bargaining is meaningless", sending the Union a notice refusing to even have negotiations at all.

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GU Demands Equal Pay And Direct Employment For Dispatch Teachers From SEICO

SEICO is a dispatching company that almost exclusively dispatches teachers to Kansai Gaidai, with the CEO having very close links to the university.

Unfortunately, we have been informed by non-union members uneasy about developments that management have orchestrated a campaign to "Keep the General Union out of SEICO".

This campaign has arisen because the General Union has a small but growing number of members who are employed by SEICO and dispatched to the university. 

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Osaka Gaigo: What Are They So Desperate To Hide?

Bunsai Gakuen Educational Corporation and Osaka Gaigo Semmon Gakko Stubbornly Refuse to Show their Financial Statements

In our February 2018 article, we reported on the puzzling behavior of Osaka Gaigo Semmon Gakko in pouring money wastefully into a lawsuit while insisting that they “have no money” ("Osaka Gaigo's Got Money To Burn! (But Not For Union Members)").

The situation has continued to develop.

When the Osaka Prefectural Labor Commission issued an order for relief of unfair labor practices, commanding the school to "apologize to the Union and allow them to examine the financial statements", Osaka Gaigo filed suit in Osaka District Court seeking cancellation of the relief order. 

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Shoin Gakuen: How Will They "Explain" Their Illegal Dismissals In Court?

blind justice osaka shoinA General Union member who held a job as a non-regular teacher of English at Shoin High School (operated by Shoin Gakuen Educational Corporation) was dismissed from the job, with no reason given, on March 31st (2018) - just a day before gaining the right to switch to an unlimited-term contract.

On June 25th (2018), our union member filed suit against Shoin Gakuen Educational Corporation, claiming the dismissal was invalid, and held a press conference together with the General Union. 

The scene was broadcast by several major media outlets in the Kansai region (MBSAsahiKTVYTV).

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It's Not Too Late To Make Sure You Don't Lose Your Pension

Back in February of 2017, a retiring, long-term union member at Osaka Gaigo Senmon Gakko realised that - even though he qualified for a pension - he would lose nine years of potential pension contributions.

The union won health and pension insurance rights back in 2000, but his first nine years were lost...

Or so he thought. 

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Shoin Gakuen Makes The News

osaka newsEven though the General Union's name wasn't mentioned, our members' illegal dismissal due to the implementation of the Labor Contract Law amendements (aka the "five year rule") has made the news.

This coming Monday, June 25th, we will be holding a press conference as we lodge the court case against Educational Corporation Shoin Gakuen, and we expect television cameras to be there.

Read the Japanese article below (click for full size): 

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Okinawa Christian University To Withdraw Dismissals Of Non-Regular Teaching Staff

Through collective-bargaining with the Okinawa Christian University (and Okinawa Christian Junior College), the "Union For Part-Time Teachers in Universities" in Okinawa recently won the removal of an article in the working regulations for non-regular teachers.

That article set a five-year employment limit in the contract terms for part-time teachers.

According to the Okinawa Times, the switch to permanent contracts will now be possible (in compliance with the law). 

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Problems Solved At Kansai Gaidai

The General Union branch at Kansai Gaidai university has been busy dealing with a number of issues arising from the closure of the university’s Hotani campus and the opening of a new campus at Gotenyama.

Visiting professors at the university have always received on-campus apartments, which is specified in their contracts.

Teachers moving from the Hotani campus to the Nakamiya and Gotenyama campuses were told that there was not sufficient accommodation to house them in the apartments at the nearby Nakamiya campus.

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Osaka Gaigo's "Argument"

Back in early 2017, the General Union helped one of our members sue Osaka Gaigo Senmon Gakko over financial losses due to their failure to enroll him in Health & Pension Insurance (shakai hoken).

Although the case is currently ongoing, we thought you might be interested in what "The Gaigo" is claiming.

You can read it all in the pdf link, but here are some choice highlights...

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Osaka Gaigo's Got Money To Burn! (But Not For Union Members)

When you claim you don't have money, the last thing you want to do is involve yourself in frivolous law suits when there are many more expensive problems to settle.

Not Osaka Gaigo, though!

They claim poverty while dealing with two (and maybe more!) lawsuits.

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Kindai - Response To The General Union

Here is Kindai's response to our questions regarding compliance with the new Labor Contract Renewal Act and demands relating to demolition and rebuilding.

The good news is that we have secured lockers and a teacher's lounge to replace those lost in Building 11, and their answer that "part-time teachers do not have a research element to their job" means they can request unlimited term contracts after working five years from April 1st, 2013.

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Osaka Gaigo Court Case Update (September 14, 2017)

Court cases never seem to proceed at the same speed or level of excitement as seen on television shows like Perry Mason, LA Law, or even Judge Judy. This is especially true in Japan.

The first hearing of our case against Osaka Gaigo was way back in March... and yet, we are still only at the phase of exchanging documents and submitting evidence. We are hoping that official testimony will begin before the closing of the year, but who knows?

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Osaka Shoin And "The 5 Year Rule" (Part 1)

Teachers with limited-term (usually one year) contracts make up a large proportion of the teachers at universities, colleges, and high schools across Japan.

In 2013, an amendment to the Labor Contract Act, aimed to give increased security to workers on limited term contracts.

Article 19 of the act states that after renewal of such a contract, further renewals shall not be refused without reasonable grounds.

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Osaka Shoin And "The 5 Year Rule" (Part 2)

Original title: The Osaka Labor Bureau's comments on avoiding conversion to unlimited-term contract

Part 1 here

To better understand this topic, you should know the background of this situation. In short, the union strongly believes (and has evidence) that Osaka Shoin are dismissing (via non-renewing) employees at both the high school and university to avoid granting unlimited term contracts as required by the new “5 year rule”.

Collective Bargaining is ongoing, but the university has yet to retract the dismissals.

As part of our fight to save teachers’ jobs, the General Union has lodged a complaint at the Osaka Labor Bureau, and they have since visited the school to offer “guidance”.

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Members Speak Up; Kansai Gaidai Backs Down

On March 2, 2017, members of the shohei faculty at Kansai Gaidai were contacted by their director and told that they would have to teach extra classes. This came as no surprise as Gaidai usually has a shortage of teachers.

Although history has shown that they can expect to lose 1-3 faculty members on short notice each semester, Gaidai does nothing to prepare for this. Each semester, the faculty holds its collective breath, hoping they will not be among those saddled with extra classes.

However, thanks to the General Union, this semester was different.

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GU Member sues Osaka Gaigo for pension damages - March 13

The first hearing in our member's case against Osaka Gaigo is set for March 13. Members and non-members alike are invited to attend. Our lawyers will also explain, in English and Japanese, the merits of the case, legal precedents, and how Osaka Gaigo broke the law.

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The Precarious Position of the Part-time University Instructor [OP-ED]

For more than 26 years, I have called Japan home in which most of that time I have worked as a part-time university English instructor at various institutions, settling at three Kansai area schools for the past ten years or so.

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Union Victory As Osaka City University Withdraws Outsourcing Proposal

A few weeks ago, you may remember that the General Union intervened after sixteen part-time teachers at Osaka City University (OCU) discovered that, via sneaking a "final contract" clause into their contracts, the university planned on no longer directly hiring teachers, intending instead to outsource the teaching positions to a dispatch company. ("Osaka City University's Threat To Outsource Its Own Teachers Invokes Union Intervention")

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