NEW GU Website: Coming Soon

A new, updated General Union website is set to be released very soon. Want a glimpse into the newly designed site? 

Join us on 10 December from 19:30 (in person at our Osaka office & online) as we unveil the new site and the people behind it. 

People behind it? Yes, GU staff and volunteers are integral to designing and improving the site, providing the design and artwork, and yes, updating articles to bring you the information you've come to rely on. Our site is 100% GU.

Made by members, for members.

So, please click the link to save your spot at our unveiling event, share a few drinks with members, and enjoy meeting old friends and new.

10 December, 19:30 (drinks at office and afterwards). RSVP at

See you there!

30th Anniversary Logo & NEW Facebook Page

We would like to unveil our new 30th Anniversary logo and welcome you to our new Facebook page. We need your likes and we are giving everyone a chance to win a free General Union T-shirt.

We have also updated our twitter account (#GENERALUNION_JP), and our new Instagram page (GENERALUNION). We will also be working on building our General Union YouTube channel (General Union).

See below for more information on how to win a free union T-shirt by visiting our new page.



 In Japan, there are three main trade union federations:

1. Zenrokyo is an independent federation with no links to the Communist Party or any employers. It is made up largely of independent-minded unions and tends to take a more active approach to labour issues than the other two. It is the only one which actively attempts to organise foreign workers.

2. Rengo is largely composed of public sector unions and unions in the private sector, many of whom have a close relationship with company management and very often are 'yellow unions', or simply company-controlled.

3. Zenroren is affiliated to the Japan Communist Party (JCP)

There are three main unions for teachers, each affiliated to one of the three federations. The biggest is Nikkyoso. Nikkyoso and Zenkyo basically only recruit full-time permanent teachers, whereas Kyoiku Godo recruits any worker in the education industry.

The General Union exists to serve the needs of workers who were traditionally unorganised; hence its active recruitment of foreign workers. The GU is an area union, not based on any one employer or industry. Individuals may join, and if there are several members in one company or workplace, they can then form a branch of the General Union.

National Trade Union Council
ZENROKYO is a national confederation of private and public sector trade unions headquartered in Tokyo, and also includes regional councils, e.g. Osaka Zenrokyo. The National Executive is made up of regional representatives. Osaka Zenrokyo's executive is made up of representatives of member unions. Zenrokyo is the smallest of the three national trade union confederations. It is the only union federation that actively recruits and supports foreign workers and their disputes. ZENROKYO is made up of independent unions which are not controlled by company management.

National Union of General Workers - Zenkoku Ippan Zenkoku Kyogikai
NUGW is a national union of mainly private sector general unions like the General Union. The General Union has one executive member on the NUGW national executive committee. Some of the affiliated unions are based in companies, some on regions, and some, like the General Union, based predominantly in certain industries. Through NUGW, we are connected with other language workers in Tokyo, Nagoya, Sendai, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and other parts of Japan.




The General Union was established in June 1991 as a union that anyone could join regardless of their workplace or industry. Since its founding the General Union has played a growing role in the language industry. Today we are predominantly a language industry union with branches in most major and many smaller language schools, as well as universities, boards of education, and technical schools.

The AGM is held once a year in spring, and is the most important body of the union. All members are expected to attend. It elects the Executive Committee, which meets roughly once a month. This is the normal decision-making body of the General Union. Any member may stand for election, and any member may attend its sessions.

The Secretariat is made up of elected executive committee members. It meets once every week and its function is to organise the day to day tasks of the union and to make decisions between Executive Committee meetings. This meeting is also open to all union members.

A Branch is a group of union members in one company or area. Branches are not independent unions; they are simply sub-divisions of the General Union. They should have their own executive committees, consisting at least of a branch chair and secretary-treasurer, who are responsible for coordinating organising in the workplace, and keeping the branch paid up and active. They also perform the vital role of liaising with the union officials at the General Union headquarters.


Tokai Map

General Union Tokai,
450-0003 Nagoya-shi
Nakamura-ku Meieki Minami 2-11-43
Nissho Bldg 2F NPO Station
Tel/Fax (052) 561-8555

GU Map

Map of GU office

From Temmabashi Station, Keihan or Tanimachi Line (N.B. NOT TEMMA STATION), go out of Exit No.18 (near the Keihan Line East Ticket Gate, next to McDonald's) on to the riverside promenade. Turn right and go up the slope to Temmabashi bridge and turn left to cross the bridge. At the far end of the bridge, cross the road so that you are on the right side of the road with Temmabashi Station behind you.

Keep walking straight ahead. From the end of the bridge it is another 100-120 yards to our building, the Rokko Temma Building. Right in front of where the flyover / passover comes down to join Temmabashi Suji, there is a sign for Raw Tracks, a live house, on the side of the building. You should also be able to see the green General Union sign

Take the lift to the 2nd floor, Room 201.


Everything you ever wanted to know about the union but were afraid to ask!

Over the years union members have been asked many questions when talking to their coworkers and friends about the union. Most of the questions are valid, but they're often based on incorrect assumptions or myths about labour unions. In this article we hope to answer some of the more common questions.

Q: What will the union negotiate for with my company?

It is for the employees to decide what to negotiate for. After declaring a branch you and your coworkers will discuss which issues are important to everyone in the branch. These issues will form the basis for your demands to the employer. Experienced union activists can provide assistance with any technical issues related to drafting or negotiating the demands.

Q: Who runs the union?

The General Union is a democratic organization run by the members. We hold an Annual General Meeting open to all members to elect our Executive Officers. The Executive Officers hold an Executive Committee Meeting once a month and participate in the day to day running of the union. The Executive Committee meetings are also open to all members. Groups of union members working at the same company can form a branch. Each branch of the General Union also has officers which are elected by the branch members. Branch officers work in consultation with the General Union's Executive Committee. The union is run by its members.

Q: Can I be fired for joining the union?

Japanese Labour Law prohibits employers from discriminating against people in any way because of their union activity. If an employer does harass or discriminate against a union member, the union can file an 'Unfair Labour Practices' case with the Labour Commission.

However, the best safeguard against the employer harassing anyone is for everyone to stick together. Without a union, management has a free hand to treat people as it pleases. But with a union everyone has the protection of the law and their coworkers.

Since the General Union was formed in 1991 only very few union members have been fired/not renewed for union activity and the union has won all the cases. On the other hand, we regularly receive calls from nonunion members seeking advice on what to do about dismissals and non-renewals. There is no guarantee that you will not be fired, but if you are, you are much better off with a union than you are without one.

Q: My employer is spreading the rumour that we could lose benefits that we now have. Is this true?

Our experience so far is that when employees join together to form a union that they are able to maintain existing benefits and in many cases have won significant improvements. In theory the union might agree to grant concessions to aid an ailing company, but this would come only as a last resort after the company had opened its books and only with the agreement of the members.

Q: Won't it cost the employer a lot of money if the union comes in?

It's natural for employees to be concerned about the financial health of companies and schools where they work. After all, if the company goes out of business, it can't pay anyone's wages or salaries. On the other hand, the assumption that if the company is doing well the employees will be the beneficiaries is not necessarily the case. A profitable company could become even more profitable by laying off employees or paying less in wages and benefits or by paying the same salaries but increasing the working hours. Even having an exact profit figure doesn't give the full picture, as companies can spend money on a lot of things besides employees; e.g. financing expansion and opening new schools, moving into new businesses, management salaries, and expensive advertising campaigns. In the last six years, we have seen English Conversation Schools that have purchased company airplanes, yachts, a Swiss Chalet, and in one case an island in the Philippines. In the final analysis, the only way to ensure economic justice for employees is by building strong unions.

Q: My employer has been saying that the union is corrupt. Is this true?

The union is you and other people like you. The employer would like you to think that unions are corrupt. The truth is that the General Union is a decent, honest, organization dedicated to improving the lives of working people.

Q: I only plan on staying in Japan for a short time. Why should I join the union?

Most people don't initially intend to stay for a long time but for one reason or another many stay for much longer than the year or so for which they planned. Foreign workers of many nationalities and occupations now make up a significant part of Japan's work force. Improvements in one sector set an example and give hope to workers in other fields. Even if you are here for a relatively short time, your friends in other companies and your coworkers may be here long after you leave. Joining the union will help them now and in the future.

Q: My employer says that Japanese people don't like unions and that joining a union isn't the Japanese way.

The definition of the Japanese way depends on who you talk to, and is sometimes based on fundamentally self- interested assumptions. Every year thousands of Japanese people go on strike and attend rallies or demonstrations. In Japan there are 10 million people in labour unions. Zen Rokyo, the labour federation to which the General Union belongs, has 3 hundred thousand members. The General Union is a Japanese union formed in accordance with Japanese law and jointly led by Japanese and non-Japanese members.

Q: My employer is implying the company would close if the union came in.

Teachers at Bilingual and Atty (two large English Schools that closed in 1994) were not unionized before both companies started having major financial difficulties. Once the schools had gone bankrupt the only reason that the employees were able to collect back wages was because of the intervention of the union.

Companies do not go out of business because they have a union, or because the workers are treated fairly. Companies close because of market conditions or poor management. The General Union has not forced any company into bankruptcy. This is a scare tactic that employers use to keep people from gaining a voice on the job. With fair wages, working conditions, and a voice on the job, teachers stay longer and become better and more experienced teachers.

Q: Management says the union is just after our dues money. Why should we pay money to the union?

Your dues pay for office expenses. Union activists are motivated by a sense that what they are doing is right, and most of them are completely unpaid. Nobody is getting rich off union dues. Your dues are spent promoting your rights and working conditions. Employers also pay dues to organizations. Employers in Japan have their own 'unions', such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Japan Employers' Association. They pay for representation; why shouldn't you?

Q: Management says there will be a strike if we organize.

Management talks a lot about strikes during an organizing drive. Strikes are uncommon and most problems are solved without striking. The only way there can be a strike is if the employees in your branch vote for a strike. Unions have a lot of other tactics that can put pressure on management to reach a fair agreement. For example, unions use negotiations, leafletings, rallies, and community support, rather than having to always resort to striking.

Q: How do we go about getting a union here?

You are welcome to join the union as an individual, but the greater the number of union members in your workplace, the more we can accomplish. Where there is already a General Union branch at your company or school, we will put you in contact with co-workers already in the union. If there is no union branch where you work, the General Union has many experienced organizers who can help you and your co-workers with the mechanics of forming a branch.




About us

What is the General Union?
The General Union is a legally registered labour/trade union, part of the Japanese labour union movement, and we are open to workers of any category or nationality. Since it was founded in 1991, our union has established a solid reputation for protecting its members' rights and improving their working conditions. We are workers like you who have joined together to protect our livelihoods and rights as workers. As a union, we are able to provide our members advice on workplace issues, and we actively help our members to organize and negotiate in their workplaces.

The General Union is part of a national private sector trade union known as the National Union of General Workers (Zenkoku-Ippan). We belong to a confederation known as Zenrokyo (National Trade Union Council).



General Union Affiliation and Structure


We share close links with our sister union, 
NUGW Tokyo-South



Who can join?
The majority of our members are teachers and staff at conversation schools, public and private schools, and universities. However, our union is open to any full time or part time worker regardless of nationality. You probably have friends or coworkers who are already General Union members; ask around.


How can the union help me and my coworkers?
We help by offering advice and concrete support on how you and your coworkers can form and run a union branch at your school or company. The size and determination of your branch are both important considerations in deciding what improvements your branch can achieve. When you and your coworkers are ready, experienced Japanese and foreign members of the General Union will assist you in negotiating collective agreements with your company. Our experience shows that when people join together, they can win significant improvements.


I would like to express a sincere thanks to you for not only achieving a satisfactory resolution to a wrong done to me, but also for your support...  
A. Member (2003)


Could I lose my job if I join?
Most companies are reluctant to pick a fight with a strong union. Since the General Union was formed, we have had a small number of cases involving the firing or non-renewal of union members - almost all of which have resulted in reinstatement or satisfactory settlements. On the other hand, we regularly receive calls from non-union members who have been fired or not renewed. An employer can fire a non-union worker for complaining about their pay and conditions. On the other hand, a union member whose union raises the same issues in negotiations is protected by Article 28 of the Constitution and Article 7 of the Trade Union Law.


How much are union dues?
Union dues range from 500 to 5000 yen depending on your income. (see for a full breakdown). In cases of special circumstances such as financial hardship, maternity leave, or extended leave due to illness, the union may be able to waive or reduce the dues. Dues, once paid, are non-refundable. Your dues pay for the staff, union office, telephones, meetings, transportation, and general operating expenses. Your dues also cover our affiliation fees to both our national union (National Union of General Workers) and our union federation (National Trade Union Council). Our membership in these two organizations ensures that we have contact and support not only from other foreign union members in Japan, but also Japanese workers from other unions.


Why should I join the union?
Different people join the union for different reasons. Some join in the hope of improving working conditions; others to prevent a decline in their current conditions. Many join simply because they believe in unions and agree with the work that we do. Whatever your reason we suggest that you do join and also encourage your coworkers to join.


How do I join?
Joining is simple. Either you can click on the joining link or if you prefer we can set up a time to talk about the union and then you can decide if you want to join.


Thanks for nothing, in the nicest possible way. Fortunately, I have not needed the union, but it is nice to know that it is there for those who do need it. For that reason I believe in unions and have supported the GU. It's time for me to pull the pin on Japan; hence it's time for me to resign my membership of the Union. I have paid up until December 2003; please keep the extra fees as a donation. 
A. Member
(August 2003)


Helping each other
At some companies, we set up branches in order to deal with a specific workplace, but we do encourage all members to help other union members regardless of their workplace or the industry in which they belong. Our union is strong because we represent workers in a whole industry rather than in just one workplace. Your union membership is valid even if you work at more than one company, and remains valid upon changing jobs.


Making it better for everyone
The General Union has a reputation for winning. We've won legally entitled paid holidays, the end of contract limits, unfair dismissals, payment of unpaid wages and overtime, and pay increases. If you're interested in making your workplace a better place for teachers, staff, and students then you should call the union and find out more about how to make this possible.


What is a fair deal?
What is fair and reasonable isn't simply a matter of employers following the minimum standards set in the law. The law does not require an employer to give pay rises and the minimum wage in Japan is less than 700 yen an hour. On the other hand, without you and your coworkers, your company can't run. The least that you should expect is a fair share and a say in what happens at your workplace. The General Union considers all of the following to be both fair and reasonable:


* Regular pay rises

* A work environment that promotes professional development and quality education

* Paid National Holidays

* At least 10 flexible paid vacation days per year

* Contracts without artificial one year term limits

* No arbitrary/unfair dismissals or non-renewals

* Overtime pay if you work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week

* No discrimination based on nationality, race, language, gender, age, or sexual orientation

* Paid maternity and paternity leave

* Regular payment of wages in full on a set date

* Enrollment in Unemployment Insurance


Contact Us

General Union (Osaka Office)


Osaka, Kita-ku Temma 1-6-8 Rokko Temma Building 201

Google MapsMap with description

Tel: 06-6352-9619

Fax: 06-6485-4501

Email: union(@) (English and 日本語)

Note: People who are seeking advice about problems at work should use the consultation request form.


Fukuoka Office



福岡NPO 共同事務所「びおとーぷ」内


Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fukuoka, Hakata-ku, Hakata Ekimae 3-6-1, Mori Bldg. 4A

c/o Fukuoka NPO Shared Office


line break

Sister Unions

NUGW Tokyo South


Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shiba 2-8-13 KITA Heim 3rd Floor

Tel: 03-6453-7858

Fax: 03-6453-7857




Additional information