執行委員長 奥貫 妃文
On Dec. 14, 2022, Tozen Union, Gaba Workers Union and Gaba Corporation signed a deal recognizing the right of Gaba teachers to strike for better conditions, a long-running point of dispute in the Tokyo and National Labor Commissions.
(Yosuke Ishii signed for management, while Musashi Sakazaki and Louis Carlet signed on behalf of the union.)
On November 4, 2021, Interac Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in Kanagawa, Saitama, and Hokkaido struck for workplace safety and fair wages. Tozen members from Interac and other workplaces demonstrated in front of Interac Kanto South HQ in Yokohama.
“We work in high-risk environments during a global pandemic,” said one member. “Interac doesn’t seem to care about us.”
Tozen Union members demanded collective bargaining in November 2019, holding thirty-three sessions since. Initially, some progress was made, but Interac will not agree to provide masks to their ALTs. Despite healthy profits, Interac refuses to make a single concession on wages.
“We implore members of the schools – principals, teachers, parents, and boards of education to speak up and support our strike!”
On Saturday 25th September 2021, Tozen’s local, Begunto held a leafleting action in Nihonbashi.
Begunto recently entered into a dispute, and members are fighting for the reinstatement of our member Matt Wiegand.
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.
You might have thought the Shane Workers Union (SWU) had gone quiet, or weren’t doing much over the lockdown, but the members were all quite active. Meetings went from a monthly thing to an almost weekly activity, and the fire in the members hearts was burning and growing.
The members were angry at Shane’s lack of decent guidance during the pandemic and angry at management’s refusal of collective bargaining(CB). The anger increased further when – after two months of refusal – management eventually met the union for CB on 15th June 2020, and offered little in the way of negotiation. The company even claimed that they didn’t even know the legal classification of the pay they gave us during the April and May lockdown.
Shane had decided that during the lockdown they would pay the workers 100% of their salary (woohoo!) as an advance (boo!) on future work. This goes against Article 17 of the Labour Standards Act, “Pay shall not be made for advanced work” and against the government’s appeals to employers to pay workers a full furlough. The government is providing financial assistance to employers to cover the costs of furloughing employees.
As the lockdown ended, the company stated that workers would have to make up 30+ days of work for free. To do this, the company unilaterally changed the working calendar with no negotiation with, or consent from, the workers, changing both training days and paid leave days to working days. This meant most workers would lose most of their holidays.
Shane also decided that the company would reclaim wages from the counselors (receptionists), horrifying them and teachers. The union did what we could to help counselors and want to do more.
As the new working days that were once training days and holidays approached, workers became agitated and angry at the exploitation.
The week leading up to one of the first new working days Saturday, June 27th was filled with discussion and talks of how teachers could stop their work being exploited, and ourthe main response was “withhold your labour.”
This must have hit a certain spot with people, as on Thursday 25th June, 9 people took strike action, with 3 people joining the union through the strike.
These new members and older ones continued to respond to other workers’ frustrations at the company’s changes to the work calendar, by suggesting that they also take action.
The company sent out an “Agreement on Planned Paid Leave Addendum” for workplace representatives to sign on Friday 26th June. This addendum stated that the company would be able to change the paid leave schedule with 7 days notice, and that the company and employees would have to comply with the changes.
It meant that the company wanted the ability to change annual paid leave with no negotiation. Teachers were furious.
All day Friday, Orren (President of the SWU) and Mizuho (Case Officer for the SWU) received strike proposals, some from old members and some from new recruits.
This culminated in an action on Saturday 27th June 2020 with 23 people striking across the company, including 11 people joining the union through strike action.
On Monday 29th June 2020, the company sent out a message with two options from which each teacher must choose. This circumvented any negotiation with the union:
The SWU’s #1 strike demand at the moment is that the company furlough its workers during the lockdown at 100% with no obligation to make up the days.
So we cannot accept either of these offers, and the fight will continue.
In the letter containing the 2 proposed options, the company acknowledges Article 17 and Article 26 of the Labour Standards Act. They mention that Article 17 states that salary cannot be paid in advance, but say nothing else about it. Despite this being the action that Shane took.
Shane misrepresents Article 26 and makes it sound like they would have had to pay only 60% as a furlough, not that they would have had to pay at least 60%. They also claimed that paying 60% might have caused “severe financial difficulties” for staff, never letting slip that 60% is the minimum, or that the government offered Payroll Protection Program assistance to companies that furloughed their employees.
On Tuesday 30th of June, we managed another large strike action of 19 people, with one teacher joining the union through strike action. More schools closed for the day.
Today, on Wednesday 1st of July, we had our 2nd largest strike yet, with 22 people striking, 4 of which joined through striking. Once again, the company was unable to cover all of the strikers.
These large strike actions have doubled the size of the union, and all new members seem very motivated about how they can help the union going forwards to realise the demands.
The hard work of everyone over the past week has been incredible to see. It amazes what people can do when they unite for a cause.
The Shane Workers Union is not anti-company. We are not anti-work. We love our work. We just want to make this a workplace that everyone can be proud of. We look forward to negotiating with the company in the future.
The last day before Winter Solstice (Dec. 21), Shane teachers upped the ante in their fight for job security, pension and health insurance, and a 3% pay hike.
In the wake of membership, growth, teachers at a dozen different schools lay down their chalk Saturday. Reports indicate schedule disruptions and cancelled classes.
Tozen Union and its chapter Shane Workers Union negotiated both on and off the record with the English language school but failed to make progress on demands, which included a union page in the Shane teachers bimonthly newsletter.
Management maintained its hard-line, making nothing more than symbolic gestures at concession.
Union teachers determined they had no choice but to muster their courage and strike both on Dec. 18 and then Dec. 21. The latter marked their largest strike in over five years of dispute.
At least one non-member joined the union just to participate in the strike.
Language school Gaba must recognize the right of instructors to strike, the Tokyo Labor Commission ruled today.
Tozen Union and its local chapter Gaba Workers Union sued the language giant in 2016 to overturn warning letters issued to strikings teachers.
Gaba has its more than one thousand teachers on private service provider contracts called gyomu itaku. The company argued that since each teacher is just a service provider, they don’t have the rights of workers under Japan’s Trade Union Act.
The board noted that the teachers effectively qualify as workers for the purpose of that law and that the company must apologize to both unions for interfering in their strike.
Osaka Labor Commission had previously recognized the right to collective bargaining of a union organizing teachers at Gaba (General Union).
Management tried to overturn that ruling and argued that even IF teachers have the right to bargaining, they should not also have the right to strike.
In Japan, the rights to solidarity, collective bargaining, and collective action (including strikes) are enshrined as a set in Article 28 of the Constitution.
“This is a victory for all Gaba instructors, including non-union members,” said Gaba Workers Union President Tyler Christensen.
“It confirms what we’ve always said – Gaba instructors have the same rights as regular employees,” he added. “Now that our right to strike is secure, we look forward to getting back to the bargaining table and continuing to improve working conditions for Gaba instructors.”
The board rejected Gaba’s claim to be able to split the three rights (rodo sanken) as a theory they “just made up.”