On November 3, 2021, Berlitz teachers belonging to Tozen Union’s Begunto local, gathered in front of Berlitz Japan’s Yurakucho Language Center to demand the school reinstate wrongly terminated member Matt. They passed out over 100 leaflets to students and passersby, informing them of the union’s demand.
The corona pandemic has hurt Berlitz’ earnings, leading the company to offer voluntary early retirement packages and apply for government job-security assistance. The aid is premised on the company not laying off employees. Yet, the school has used the precarious employment of fixed-term contracts as a way to do what one member called, “back-door layoffs.”
In ordinary times, Berlitz automatically renews teachers’ one-year contracts, unless there is a major issue with a particular teacher. Now, the company has lowered the bar for non-renewals, taking away the job security teachers had enjoyed for decades.
The union is committed to fighting until the company reinstate our member Matt and to restoring job security for all Berlitz employees.
On May 11, 2021, Tozen Union entered into dispute with Interac. Since our first collective bargaining (CB) in October 2019, Tozen Union and Interac have taken several important steps toward working out a deal. But after twenty-six CB sessions, workplace safety and wage issues remain. Our campaign to improve working conditions at Interac is important not just for employees, but for students and Japan’s education system.
Few corporations paid full kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance during the emergency shutdown. Shane Eikaiwa (Shane Corp.), however, paid its teachers the full allowance during April and May. At first glance, the company apparently showed respect to its workers, a company anybody would be proud to work at.
But this pretty picture has turned ugly, with management deducting wages without workers’ consent and trying to get them to work overtime for free.
The number of members of the Tozen Union Shane Workers Union has tripled from just 20 a month ago on June 24, to 71 today. Today, 41 members walked out, the biggest strike in the history of Tozen Union’s Shane chapter and even in the history of Tozen Union.
We heard of many workplace problems that school counselors faced, but they were reluctant to stand up, organize and fight back. But counselors have joined the union and have now struck. Being the first to step forward is tough, yet they refused to bow to the pressure and took the bold and daring step of standing up.
Shane Eikaiwa presented instructors with two options in late June.
Option 1 was to maintain the same work schedule they had before the state of emergency declaration with no need to provide make-up classes on their days off. But they would get about half their upcoming pay deducted.
Option 2 was to keep all the wages they received during the closure, but then be required to do make-up classes for free to offset those wages. In effect, this means that the money paid during closure was an advance payment for future work.
Option 1 violates a principle in Article 24 that wages must be paid in full and cannot be deducted without the employee’s agreement; and Option 2 violates Article 17 of the Labor Standards Act, which stipulates Employers cannot pay an advance as a loan on condition that those wages will be offset by future labor.
Astonishingly, Shane Eikaiwa told teachers that if they refused to choose either option, they would automatically get stuck with Option 1. Employees end up being strong-armed into choosing one of these two options.
The members of Tozen Union’s Shane local rejected both options. Many members reran employee rep elections at their schools and told management they refuse and reject any deduction from their wages. Management continues to refuse to conclude a rodo kyoyaku collective bargaining agreement over corona wages and work schedules.
Today, school counselors and instructors – the workers at Shane Eikaiwa stood up and prosecuted a major strike.
Recently, Yahoo News ran a piece on Shane Eikaiwa by well-known journalist and commentator Haruki Konno. The article was retweeted over 700 times, including by Shane students as well as those who want to take action to change things for instructors.
SNA (Tokyo) — Last Friday, the Covid-19 global pandemic passed the horrifying milestone of one million infections and 50,000 fatalities worldwide. There have, as of this writing, been 4,592 confirmed cases and 106 deaths in Japan. Graphs of new cases and deaths trace the left half of steep parabolas as the world’s nations fail to flatten the curve. The global catastrophe and its grim toll traps workers between the closing jaws of infection risk and dire economic straits. As US commentator Krystal Ball noted, “the working class has been shoved into the front lines of this crisis.”