Strike and Nationwide Protest against Union-Busting at ELS-Berlitz in Sapporo

Demonstrators gathered in front of ELS-Berlitz schools in Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Tokyo last Saturday to protest dismissals of four union members at the Sapporo ELS-Berlitz school.

Friends and students joined union members to hand out over 600 leaflets during a strike at the Sapporo school, while in Tokyo, Berlitz teachers and other union members called for reinstatement of the Sapporo Four, and in Fukuoka, the Fukuoka General Union delivered a letter of protest during a demonstration at the ELS-Berlitz school there.

ELS bought the Berlitz school in Sapporo last April, and many teachers continued working for the new owner, teaching exactly the same Berlitz lessons, albeit under contract to a new employer. Teachers who had been unionized at Berlitz soon formed a new branch to protect their working conditions at ELS, and started negotiating with the company. ELS responded by firing one member in February, and announcing the dismissal of the other three as of March 31. Out of 17 teachers, only the union members were fired – ELS calls this “coincidence”. The union calls it unfair labour practice and a violation of Trade Union Law.

The company gives “poor performance” as the reason for dismissal, yet the teachers are all experienced instructors, ranging in seniority from 6 years to 27 years, and have held positions of responsibility such as Instructional Supervisor and Assistant Instructional Supervisor at the school. One of the dismissed members is still being asked to do assessments and demo lessons for prospective customers, hardly a job one would assign to a poor teacher.

Strikes and demonstrations will continue until the company retracts these unfair dismissals.