Private Language Schools

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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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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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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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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September 8th - Language Industry Shunto 2020 Organising Meeting

Union leaders from around Japan representing workers at major language schools will meet to start planning Shunto 2020.

The first stage of planning will be creating a comprehensive assessment of working conditions at all the major schools.

Our goal is to make sure the highest common denominator is used at all schools to set working conditions, as opposed to the race to the bottom that employers want to force on us. 

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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.

ECC: Union Wins Improvements for 2019; Vows to Keep Fighting in 2020

Six months of negotiations ended on July 21st without a strike, with members voting three-to-one to accept ECCs final offer negotiated with the union.

This year's bargaining had a lot of cliffhangers with two scheduled strikes being post-poned as we turned the threat of strikes into tangible gains for our members.

The package accepted by a vast majority of General Union and Tokyo Roso ECC members brings the following benefits to members:

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ECC strikes postponed. New deadline set for end of June

As the union held three new negotiation sessions during May and some progress was made in terms of proposals from the company (they moved off their ALL NO plan), ECC union officers decided to give the company another month to try to resolve the outstanding points.

We will continue negotiations over pay and yearly working days as well as getting rid of some of the new conditions ecc introduced this year to limit the numbers of those on unlimited term contracts.

Keep your eyes tuned to this site for more details.

General Union Wins Continued Employment For Members After Coco Juku Collapse

coco union winIn February (2019), the language teaching industry was again shocked (but perhaps not surprised) by the announcement that the Nichii Gakkan-owned Coco Juku would cease operations, following in the footsteps of both NOVA and GEOS around a decade ago.

Perhaps more shocking, however, was the treatment of the employees by both the company and the in-house union (the Nichii Gakkan Labor Union) - a union that employees were required to join. 

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New Era Starts In Japan; "Same Old, Same Old" At ECC

ecc same old same old※ Strikes planned for May 25th and June 1st.

On April 14, 2019, union members representing over 150 ECC employees in Kinki, Kanto, and Chubu, voted to take strike action at ECC if negotiations could not resolve union demands by May 25th.

Not only is the employer's failure to offer a minimum across the board pay rise (which they have done every year since 2015, with the exception of 2018 when the union settled for a minimum "across-the-board" pay rise AND paid special leave) a slap in the face to the duty to negotiate in good faith, the employer has begun ridiculous attacks on employees. 

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Berlitz And ECC Branches Negotiations Over Pay And Working Conditions: Round 1

General Union members at both Berlitz and ECC began collective bargaining in January (2019) over pay and working conditions. After a few rounds of bargaining, both ECC and Berlitz members will get a chance to vote on whatever is on offer at their union branch AGMs on April 14th.

Turning down the proposals could possibly lead to a strike at both companies and, at this point, there is no clear proposal from either company over pay. 

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Berlitz And ECC Branches Negotiations Over Pay And Working Conditions: Round 1 (Berlitz)

General Union members at both Berlitz and ECC began collective bargaining in January (2019) over pay and working conditions. After a few rounds of bargaining, both ECC and Berlitz members will get a chance to vote on whatever is on offer at their union branch AGMs on April 14th.

Turning down the proposals could possibly lead to a strike at both companies and, at this point, there is no clear proposal from either company over pay. 

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ECC And Berlitz Members Win Big In 2018! Let's Do It Again In 2019!

While collective bargaining took much longer than usual at these two workplaces, we were able make significant gains at both workplaces.

At ECC, bargaining focussed on four main demands: an across the board pay increase for all members; pay for special paid congratulatory and condolence leave; the return of the union's right to talk to new teachers at company orientation sessions; and the return of the company's rent subsidy for the ECC branch office.

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Is The "New" NOVA Regressing?

nova go downCould it be that - about 25 years after NOVA teachers joined the General Union and fixed NOVA's paid holiday problem - the "new" NOVA is regressing to an evolutionary form that preceeds even the "old" one?

We received a call the other day from a NOVA instructor asking how much notice they have to give in order to use a paid holiday.

While there isn't always a black and white answer, the basic principle when it comes to these kinds of things is that paid holidays belong to the employee as an indisputable legal right. 

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Working At NOVA? We'll Tell You What NOVA Won't About Unlimited Term Contracts

top secret novaAs you might know, as of April 1st, 2018, those employed at the same employer for over five years (as of any contract signed on or after April 1st, 2013), can apply to have their limited-term contract converted into an unlimited-term contract.

This means that once you apply, the employer must accept it - and when you sign the NEXT contract, there is no longer an end date (e.g. you change from a one-year contract to an unlimited-year contract).

You can read more about the limited- to unlimited-term contract conversion process in our extensive Q&A on the topic: The Labor Contract Law Amendment Q&A 

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Don't Beg For A Good Evaluation - Join The Union And Negotiate Your Pay!

For years, the General Union has argued that pay increases based on evaluations is a rigged system. After all, how could the system not be rigged against the employee when the people doing the evaluating (i.e. the company) are the very same people who also have to pay the increase you get?

Berlitz's latest memo is a prime example of this in action: Berlitz has an evaluation system in place - but this year, because of their financial situation, they want to change it to a much worse system.

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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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Nichibei Eigo Gakuin Teachers & Okayama Bus Drivers Have A Lot In Common

So what do Nichibei Eigo Gakuin teachers and Okayama bus drivers have in common? Thinking outside the box!

When we hear of industrial action we usually think of strikes. In reality though, it can take many different forms, and be just as effective.

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AEON's Trickery And The "20,000 Yen Fixed Overtime Allowance"

AEON teachers work some of the longest hours in all of the main eikaiwa schools in Japan.

In general, many of the teachers who we speak to don't mind these hours as they are paid a little more than at other schools and often get to do a variety of different jobs throughout the day.

At least, this was the case until the recent announcement by AEON that teachers will have their base salaries cut by 15,000 yen per month.

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General Union And NUGW Tokyo Nambu Enter Joint Negotiations At British Council

Here's a follow up on our recent successes at ECC where the General Union joined forces with members at our sister union NUGW Tokyo Roso.

Union members at British Council are locking arms across unions to win improvements in their working conditions.

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