Unionized teachers recruit and strike as dispute with Shane language school enters sixth year

As the first winter chill creeps into the Tokyo air on a rainy Friday morning in late November, members of the Shane Workers Union (SWU), sheltering under their umbrellas, greet their co-workers arriving for training in Kichijoji, Nishi Funabashi and Kita Urawa.

SWU stalwart Ezra Woolnough, veteran of the first strike at Shane Corp five years ago braced the poor weather to distribute leaflets at Kichijoji school with General Secretary Ritika Singh, the core of SWU’s new dynamic cohort.

In Kita Urawa,Orren Frankham, his flowing locks peeking out from beneath a stylish beanie, performed the first ever recruitment action in Saitama district and indeed his first. Without the  solidarity of a Tozen Begunto member we would not have sent Orren out on his own.
Begunto, we owe you one.

Over in Chiba we’ve seen a surge in union activity. Showing us how democracy in the workplace should be done, Martin White repelled management’s undemocratic attempts to usurp his position as duly elected workplace representative at Inage school. He breaks his strike duck bringing two new entrants into the struggle for fair working conditions.

Joined by Tozen organiser, the indomitable Gerome Rothman and guests, an impressive turnout demonstrates the commitment and solidarity of the union. We take this seriously.

The members of SWU were well received overall and a lot of interest shown in joining the union. Several membership kits were handed out and we look forward to receiving those applications very soon.

Recently reinstated at Shane after a High Court victory last month, Branch President Adam Cleeve said “I’m incredibly proud of the members for what they’ve achieved today. The momentum is with us and we are growing.”

Saturday 23rd November is Labour Thanksgiving Day, Kinrō Kansha no Hi. A day marked as a national holiday in Japan to give one another thanks for their hard work. Shane Corp have abandoned the traditional annual party for staff. Instead of free drinks and entertainment a full day of training and a box of doughnuts was on offer Friday. Saturday was also a day staff expected to have off but instead are having to work to make up a day lost to Typhoon Hagibis. This is how Shane Corp gives thanks to their workforce on Labour Thanksgiving.

Strike action also took place on Saturday with a further three teachers joining SWU by withdrawing their labour. I respect their bravery. We won’t let them strike alone and were joined by established members of SWU.

There have been no pay rises for teachers at Shane for at least 7 years and SWU are striking for an across the board rise of 3%. Also in the strike demands are Shakai Hoken (employer contributory health and pension) and job security through permanent contracts.

SWU is here for good, we’re a part of the furniture and we’re not giving up the fight for better working conditions for all the workers at Shane. Shane Corp have had five years to negotiate an end to the strikes but have unfathomably failed to do so. Our demands are perfectly reasonable. Now is the time for management to put something on the table but I expect they will continue to delay as SWU continues to grow in strength and numbers.

Adam Cleeve
SWU Branch President
November 23rd 2019