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Inside the “Voice”     News










G.Education has taken a stand – a stand to worsen working conditions. Now t is time for NOVA teachers to take a stand, too; a stand against unfair fines and pay cuts. Under the guise of a regu(See ‘Hands Off’ pg. 3)

-NUGW Tokyo NambuBerlitz Japan sued five of its own teachers, along with two executives of NUGW Tokyo Nambu, for 110 million yen each to compensate for damages caused by an alleged ‘illegal strike.’ The suit falsely claims that the purpose of the strike was to damage the company, rather than to realize the union’s demands. Trade Union Law Article 8 exempts unions from all claims of damages caused by legitimate union activities. Management calculated the damages from the 3,455 lessons teachers struck, the cost of replacement teachers (including those on stand-by), and damage to the

school's reputation. Subpoenas were delivered to union members in early December 2008, and the first hearing was held in Tokyo District Court on January 26, 2009. When asked by the judge to produce evidence in support of the charges, Berlitz’s legal team stated that they would not be able to produce any evidence until the end of March. Union lawyers protested that a lawsuit was launched with no evidence prepared, but the Berlitz team argued that they needed time to translate materials from English to Japanese. Why a language school can’t get translation done in a timely manner remains a mystery. (See ‘Berlitz’ Shame’ pg. 3)





-General UnionEarly each year there is a mad scramble amongst dispatch teachers. The union gets inundated with email and telephone calls from teachers worried that they may be non-renewed, worried that they don't have unemployment insurance. One of the biggest questions is what is the best dispatch company (see ‘Race to the bottom’ pg. 2)

This year the Foreign Steering Committee hopes to take the March in March to cities throughout the country. Maintaining the themes of job security and equality for all, the protest parade is a day of action for a new multi-ethnic Japan. All races, nationalities, genders, ages and workers from all walks of life -come walk with us this March. The Tokyo March in March will start from Miyashita Park in Shibuya at 2pm on Sunday March 8.

– Tel: 03-3434-0669 Fax: 03-3433-0334

Tel: 06-6352-9619 Fax: 06-6352-9630 Tokai Tel/Fax: 052-561-8555

Tel/Fax: 092-473-1222

National Union Voice

-General UnionWe recently fielded a frantic call from a JET teacher in northern Japan. It seemed that Interac was increasing their reach and was poised to ruin her job. The teacher was in her first year of employment as a JET and had the expectation that her contract would be renewed for another two years. Out of the blue she received a call from her board of education and was told that her direct hire contract was being terminated at the end of March 2009. The BoE would like to keep her on though - as a dispatch teacher from Interac.

to work at. That's an easy one to answer - none. Yes, the money at dispatch company A may be slightly better but do they offer a full-time salary the whole year round? True, company B pays your transportation but they regularly lose contracts with the boards of education and there is almost no job security. Company C doesn't provide health insurance or unemployment insurance. Since the start of the dispatching of ALT jobs, there has been a steady decline in working conditions - sala-

ries have been reduced, and job security is almost non-existent. Many teachers are left without health and pension insurance (Shakai Hoken) and unemployment insurance. Teachers at all of the dispatch companies need to unite and have their voices heard. The National Union of General Workers is committed to direct employment of ALTs and improving working conditions. Take our ALT teacher survey.

-NUGW Tokyo NambuEditors, translators and journalists in our Japan Times local have never had paid sick days, but after more than a year fighting for them and other financial demands as part of 2008 Shunto, including several strikes, management finally settled and recently signed a labor-management agreement. Paid sick days are important not just financially but from a preventative

health perspective. Using the constitutional right to strike to win sick days is surely a healthy way to fight to better your workplace. Kudos to our JT sisters and brothers. Editor’s Note: While your right to sick days in Japan is not part of Japanese labour law, there is nothing which stops your union branch or local from demanding it. As a union, you can demand whatever your members feel to be fair or needed.

The BoE had organized for Interac to hire the teacher at a substantially reduced salary, without health and pension insurance and the accommodation that she presently received. This would be a major drop in working conditions but with the same job responsibilities. Initial talks with CLAIR (the administrative body for JET teachers) led to an offer of a transfer to another job with the original working conditions. This wasn't good enough. Finally talks between CLAIR and the BoE resulted in Interac being dropped and the direct hire position safe for at least another two years. Contact the union now if you hear of Interac, or other dispatch companies, trying to take over direct hire positions.

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Spring 2009

National Union Voice At the same time, the Tokyo Labour Commission is investigating our claim of union-busting. Begunto (Nambu's Berlitz local) quickly submitted evidence, memos and letters from Berlitz management clearly violating the Trade Union Law by warning employees not to strike. Berlitz’s lawyers sent a letter protesting a recent leafleting, concluding with the statement “If your union repeats such actions, we may be forced to sue again.” Long-term union members are deeply disappointed by the sudden anti-union turn taken by Berlitz after more than 10 years of relatively positive labour-management relations. Allegations that we are out to destroy the business on which our income, pension, and health insurance depend, are not only illogical, but insulting. The members have been clear from the beginning about the purpose of the strike; a 4.6% increase and a one-month bonus.

The union submitted several affidavits by parents, coworkers and even a student, testifying to her professionalism and skill and lined up four witnesses. Management failed to submit even one signed affidavit and had no witnesses willing to testify. Facing certain defeat, management signed an agreement taking Joyce back with a large percentage of her back wages and promised to stop discriminating against union members. Thank you Joyce for your courage and thanks to all your supporters.

As part of our strategy to win recognition of GABA teachers as employees and all the rights that go with that, the General Union is suing GABA in the Labor Commission. The next three hearings have been set for Feb 10, March 5, March 24, and April 22. Our GABA branch chair will be testifying about how GABA controls teachers work Members and non-members alike are encouraged to attend. Contact us if you are available on any of these dates. Labor Standards Office As well as using the Labor Commission in our fight, on December 1st we lodged an official complaint with the Labor Standards Office over the

issue of unpaid annual leave for one union member. Under the direction of the union, our member had applied to GABA for paid leave when he was off work ill. As expected, GABA refused to pay. After sounding out the attitudes of various Labor Standards Offices and the Labor Bureau, we have now made a request for an official investigation. This investigation is about to commence and hopefully we will have an update sometime in late March of this year. What can you do? Join the union and get behind our campaign to improve working conditions at GABA.

larity allowance, G.Ed is fining teachers up to 40,000 yen for being absent. They are also using contract renewals as a chance to cut salaries by up to 25%. NOVA teachers have only one effective way to beat pay cuts and worsening working conditions, and that is by joining the union and fighting to maintain their conditions. The union has been able to win many concessions from G.Education, including the rehiring of many

teachers, but G.Education thinks that now things have cooled down, they have a chance to do what they always wanted; cut your pay and conditions. Let G.Education know that you support the demonstrations and leaflettings by union members. You can do this by joining now. As part of our nationwide Hands Off My Pay campaign union dues are now 500 yen for your first three months of membership.

Say YES to Joining the union. ¥500 for 3 months.

Say NO to

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All and any pay cuts. ¥40,000 fines.

Making G.Education keep their promises.

Spring 2009

(See ‘Hands Off’ – pg. 2)

Job-losses, contract non-renewals.


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ゼ ネ ラ ル ユ ニ オ ン ( 関 西 ・ 東 海 ) 、 全 国 一 般 東 京 南 部 、 福 岡 ゼ ネ ラ ル ユ ニ オ ン

-General UnionLast October, Ryukoku University announced cuts in classes for part-time teachers in the Faculty of Intercultural Communication at the Seta Campus. The reason given was that they were phasing out the old curriculum, entailing an overall reduction of classes. From April 2009 they said they could only offer a maximum of six classes a week (down by two from eight) to ensure ‘quality and reliability’. Needless to say, the teachers were not enthusiastic about this news and our members at Ryukoku started organising around this issue. With its membership growing, the union sent demands for the with-

On 1 December last year, with the school in financial difficulty, a 15% pay cut was announced to the non-regular teachers, along with 20% for the ‘Sennin’ (regular teachers). Within three weeks we had announced to the school the formation of a sizeable ‘General Union Seibo Gakuin Branch’, demanding the withdrawal of the cut. Our members have committed a lot to the

drawal of cuts. Ryukoku replied negatively and claimed that this did not contravene our Prior Consultation agreement of March 2007, which obliges the university to consult the union before deciding on disadvantageous changes to working conditions. We went for collective bargaining in November, but Ryukoku insisted on calling it ‘talks’ rather than collective bargaining, which added to the points of contention. After these talks, however, Ryukoku reconsidered their position and accepted both the necessity for Prior Consultation and the duty of Collective Bargaining. Even more importantly, they have offered seven koma to those cut

school and, with their pay at the lower end of the Seibo scale, cannot afford a pay cut. Collective bargaining was held on 23 January, but on 9 February the school totally rejected our demands without any counter proposal. We are pressing on with another collective bargaining soon, with our members determined to fight this unfair attack on workers’ pay.

to six. We have finally – after four months of sustained pressure – reached an agreement on the issues. The union has won seven classes for the 2009 academic year for those cut from eight, along with an apology for the trouble caused. The cut teachers will also be given priority when classes become available. To those Ryukoku teachers who have benefited from the union’s negotiations but who are not yet members of the union, we would like to say JOIN THE UNION NOW! We have shown that it is possible to protect conditions through the union, and it’s time to get on board!

-NUGW Tokyo NambuLast April Joyce declared her union membership at preschool Little Garden. Two weeks later, she was fired with 11 months left on her one-year contract. After being sued the company at the Tokyo Labour Commission for union-busting management claimed they had fired her for student complaints and "abusing" preschoolers. (See ‘Joyce is back’ – pg. 3)

2009 01 (spring)  
2009 01 (spring)