As parent firm posts record profits, Berlitz teachers strike back

“Benesse boasts openly on its Web site about the success of its ‘Language Company’ sector, mentioning Berlitz Japan in particular,” notes longtime Berlitz teacher and Begunto (Berlitz General Union Tokyo) Vice President Catherine Campbell.

The language teachers of Begunto didn’t need a math class to put two and two together, and in April 2007 they began “shunto” (spring) negotiations for a “base-up” raise and bonus.

As the time of writing, at least 55 teachers have conducted “spot strikes” at at least 16 Berlitz schools, most of these in greater Tokyo. Begunto says it is encouraged by the response: Some French and Spanish teachers have walked out, and several more teachers have joined the union. That adds up to teachers walking out of 275 lessons in the greater Tokyo area, at large schools in Ikebukuro and Akasaka as well as suburban locations such as Seijo Gakuen, Atsugi and Kashiwa.

Louis Carlet, Deputy Secretary General of the National Union of General Workers [Tokyo Nambu], Begunto’s parent union, writes that Berlitz has been forced to “spend massive amounts of money and resources sending ‘shadows’ to cover the classes of potential strikers with strikebreakers.”