Plainte contre l’Institut français du Japon devant la justice japonaise

L’Institut français du Japon (IFJ) est à la fois un centre culturel dépendant de l’Ambassade de France au Japon et une école de français. Ce sont les cours de français qui assurent une grande partie du financement de l’établissement et de l’action culturelle de la France au Japon. Pourtant, depuis plusieurs années, l’IFJ a entrepris de dégrader systématiquement les conditions de travail des enseignants qui assurent ces cours.

En septembre 2015 la direction a unilatéralement annoncé une nouvelle grille salariale qui représente pour la plupart des enseignants une baisse de revenu pouvant aller jusqu’à près de 40% et un raccourcissement des contrats de 1 an à 6 mois. Ces changements à cette date avaient pour but de contourner la mise en vigueur au Japon de la loi sur les 5 ans, loi qui oblige, à partir du 1er avril 2018, les entreprises à donner un contrat permanent aux mêmes conditions à tout travailleur en CDD depuis au moins 5 ans dans son entreprise, ce qui est le cas de la quasi-totalité des enseignants.

En réponse, le Syndicat des Employés de l’Institut (SEI, affilié au syndicat Tozen de la fédération Rengo, la plus grosse fédération syndicale du Japon) a mené plusieurs actions, y compris des grèves, pourtant exceptionnelles dans le contexte japonais.

La réaction de la direction a été entre autres de mettre en concurrence des employés avec divers contrats pour entraver les actions de solidarité en donnant les cours des employés syndiqués à de nouveaux employés ; de licencier plusieurs employés certains avec des décennies d’ancienneté ; de menacer de licenciement les employés qui ne signeraient pas les nouveaux contrats avant la date d’entrée en vigueur de la loi sur les 5 ans.

Le public de l’Institut, constitué de personnes qui aiment la France et le français, a répondu favorablement aux actions du SEI et plusieurs actions de soutien des élèves à leurs professeurs ont été menées (lettres à la direction de l’IFJ, pétitions). Malgré cela, l’IJF continue ses attaques contre ses employés.

L’IFJ prépare depuis plusieurs années une telle politique de contournement de la loi sur les 5 ans. En réaction à cette politique, 3 employés de l’IFJ ont déposé une plainte le lundi 2 juillet 2018 auprès de la justice japonaise pour exiger que l’IFJ cesse de contourner la loi et applique la législation japonaise à laquelle sont soumis les contrats de ses employés, et non les directives du gouvernement français qui semble croire qu’il fait la loi au Japon comme en France. À cette occasion, une conférence de presse a été organisée le lundi 2 juillet à 16h30 par Tozen, le SEI et Rengo dans les locaux du Ministère du Travail, de la Santé et de la Protection sociale, pour expliquer les raisons de cette plainte.

「ルール無視した賃下げ」 仏語講師が政府機関を提訴 東京地裁

フランス語学校を運営する同国政府の公式機関「アンスティチュ・フランセ日本」の講師3人は2日、有期契約労働者が5年超働けば無期契約に移行できる「無期転換ルール」の適用前に、賃金を引き下げた無期契約を結ばせたのは無効として、学校側に以前の賃金支払いを求める訴訟を東京地裁に起こした。

3人が加入する全国一般東京ゼネラルユニオン(東京)が同日、記者会見し明らかにした。3人の代理人指宿昭一弁護士は「無期転換ルールを逃れる目的とみられ、日本の労働法を無視する暴挙だ」としている。

3人は男性で6~19年間講師を続けている。今年10月以降は無期転換ルールにより、無期契約を申請できるはずだったが学校側が2月、給料を3割程度下げた無期契約を講師らに提示。契約しなければ雇用関係が終了してしまうため、3人は賃金引き下げを留保した上で契約した。4月以降、給与が下げられた。

参詣ニュース
原著

給料減額「日本の労働法を無視した暴挙」、 仏政府公式「語学教室」の講師ら提訴

フランス語教室を運営する「アンスティチュ・フランセ日本」(旧・日仏学院)の東京校で、非常勤講師としてはたらくフランス人男性3人が7月2日、不当な給料減額があったとして、元の条件で報酬を受ける雇用契約上の地位にあることの確認を求めて、東京地裁に提訴した。

●ホームページには「フランス政府公式機関」と書かれている

訴状などによると、原告3人はそれぞれ、6年から19年にわたって、時間給の非常勤講師(契約期間・6カ月または1年間)として、アンスティチュ・フランセ日本(旧・東京日仏学院)のフランス語の授業を担当してきた。

2018年2月、アンスティチュ・フランセ日本から、同年4月以降の時給を引き下げたうえで、期間の定めのない労働契約(無期転換)を締結すると申し入れがあった。原告らは、「引き下げに応じられない」と留保したうえで、期間の定めのない雇用契約の締結には応じるとこたえた。

原告らは、同年3月末までに契約期間が満了することになっていたが、それまでと変わりなく勤務をつづけている。こうした状況のとき、「それまでと同一条件でさらに雇用をしたものと推定する」(民法629条)というルールがあるため、今回の提訴に踏み切った。3人ともに今年10月以降、有期雇用から無期転換できる権利が発生することになっているという。

ホームページによると、アンスティチュ・フランセ日本は2012年9月、フランス大使館文化部と東京日仏学院、横浜日仏学院、関西日仏学館、九州日仏学館が統合して誕生した団体だ。東京、横浜、関西、九州の4支部(5都市)を拠点に「フランス政府公式機関」として、フランス語講座のほか、文化・思想・学問を発信している。

●非常勤講師たちの生活が不安定になっている

原告のフランス人男性3人、グザビエさん(45歳・19年勤務)、ピエールさん(29歳・6年勤務)、ジルさん(43歳・15年勤務)はこの日の提訴後、東京・霞が関の厚労省記者クラブで会見を開いた。

グザビエさんは「学校のためにできるだけスケジュールを空けないといけません。スケジュールを空けば空けるほど、(授業を)担当する機会が増えますが、学校以外の働く機会が減っていきます。一方で、毎月どれくらい収入が入るかわからない状況がつづいています」「大変ストレスが多い仕事だと思います」と述べた。

ピエールさんは2017年冬まで週12時間担当していた授業が、現在ゼロ時間になっているという。「メインの収入源でしたが、生活するためになくなった分を補うために別の仕事しています。家賃を払う分しかカバーできていません」と話した。ジルさんも「子どもを学校に通わせるのも難しくなりそうだ」と苦しい状況を訴えた。

原告代理人をつとめる指宿昭一弁護士は「本当の問題点は、労働契約法の『無期転換ルール』(5年ルール)の趣旨に反していることだ。これまで何度も反復契約しているので、いきなり雇い止めしたり、賃金を下げることはできない。日本の労働法を無視した暴挙といってもよい。フランス政府にぜひ考えてもらいたい」と話していた。

原著

Tohoku University’s systemic massacre of 3,243 jobs

Exactly 50 years back, the streets of Japan boiled in revolution. The protests against the Narita airport and alleged collusion of then Prime Minister Eisako Sato with the United States in the Vietnam war brought the cities to a halt. Tear gas, water cannons and the occupation of University of Tokyo’s infamous Yasuda auditorium have been etched as vivid memories amongst people of that generation.

50 years later, the streets are silent or at least, the mainstream Japanese media projects it to be. Japan’s largest media corporations came under fire for deliberately not reporting protests and people’s opinions after the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami. Not very long after that, in 2012, the Japanese government amended the labour contract law.

The amendment in the labour contract law implied that all fixed-term employees can give themselves a permanent status if they have been employed for over five years. The lawmakers have claimed that it is for enhancement of job security and were challenging the rising fixed-term employees at various institutions. As of 2015, Tohoku University has 5,771 irregular employees as opposed to 4,686 regular employees. Yet, institutions have found a way to exploit the loophole: To not renew a fixed-term employee beyond five years.

Since the implementation of the law starting from April 01, 2013, five years have been completed on March 31, 2018. This implies that institutions can officially decline to renew any fixed term contracts and prevent the irregular employees from becoming regular. Tohoku University, like many others in the country, has decided to do so.

With very little reporting about the same in the mainstream English media apart from the exception of Hifumi Okunuki’s op-ed article in ‘The Japan Times’ in 2016, the issue remains unclear and unknown, to the student community and the outsiders. The regular protests by Tohoku University Kumiai on the Katahira campus have attracted very little attention from the students. “We really want the students to know about it,” said one of the Kumiai members to the Sentinel who has decided to remain anonymous.

Protests against the administrative decision near Kawauchi station

The university has already initiated the process of terminating the contracts of the fixed-term employees by not renewing them. It has substituted them with new employees who may face the same fate 5 years from now. “The university says that it doesn’t have any money to guarantee our employment in the future but they have been constructing buildings after buildings and a lot of them have also been for the sheer symbolism of reconstruction and revival post-2011,” the Kumiai member said. “The lawyer representing the university is from Tokyo. Appointing someone all the way from Tokyo costs a lot of money,” the member added.

Last year, the university put in place an examination for the irregular employees, some of whom who have worked for nearly a decade at the university. The set terms were clear: The ones who fail to clear it, would be terminated immediately. In a somewhat expected move, only 30% of the test-takers cleared the examination. “Everyone from the Ryugakuseika department cleared the test which could probably be reasoned for their ability to communicate in English,” said the Kumiai member.

This year also saw the shift in leadership as President Hideo Ohno stepped into the shoes of presidency, succeeding President Susumu Satomi. “There has been no change due to President Ohno stepping in. It is all the same,” the Kumiai member said. “He said he requires time for studying the topic deeply,” the member added. President Ohno replied the same when ‘The Sentinel’ asked him about this issue in an interview back in January 2017, few weeks after he was announced as the President-elect. ‘The Sentinel’ also tried asking this to President Satomi in an interview but the secreteriat refused to give us permission to ask him anything about the issue.

It is also surprising to note that most of these 3,243 employees are female employees. Since most of them have a family to take care of and the household expense is majorly supported by the husband’s income, they choose to take an irregular job. With Prof. Noriko Osumi stepping in as the new Vice President for Public Relations and Promotion of Diversity, it is expected that the gender imbalance will be seen with greater importance in administrative decisions. She is the first female professor at the School of Medicine and is also the Director of TUMUG (Tohoku University Centre for Gender Equality Promotion). Yet, the Kumiai member thinks otherwise. “She has focussed only on researchers and regular workers. She has not addressed any of the gender issues that the 3,243 employees who are on the brink of losing their jobs are facing.”

The fine prints and implications of this new law which was supposed to guarantee more jobs bring in new details. “After completion of 5 years, the fired employee can re-join the institution after a break of 6 months for another 5 years. So, some of the employees who left the university in March this year may be able to re-join in October. This is absolutely incomprehensible. I cannot do without 6 months’ pay,” said the Kumiai member. Questions like what would happen if the university hires new employees in the period between April and October remain ambiguous and no clear answers were found.

Like Tohoku University, Hokkaido  University and Osaka University are also amongst other centres for higher education who have decided to axe the jobs. On the other hand, the negotiations between the labour union at University of Tokyo and the administration has been somewhat successful and irregular employees are still holding on to their jobs. The union at Tohoku University is always in constant discussion with administration about important issues but the number of members have fallen over the years. “Many are not concerned unless their jobs are affected,” the Kumiai member said.

A part of this problem can also be traced back to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s decision in 2003 to turn all Japanese national universities into institutions with corporate status or, ‘national university corporation’, as they are now known as. This has pressured the universities to look out for their own funds. With MEXT reducing its subsidies to the national universities by 1% each year, the universities have responded by hiring more irregular staff and axing clerical jobs. United Kingdom adopted similar idea back in 1988 under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher but responses from citizens have been mixed.

Back in July 1974, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in the Toshiba Yanagi-cho Factory case where seven plaintiffs worked on revolving 2 month-contracts and one of them was renewed 23 times. The Supreme Court upheld it as jotai-setsu (Legal principle of abuse of the right to dismiss applies if circumstances suggest that employment is in effect permanent, even if written contract indicates a fixed term).

The court case between Tohoku University and the 3,243 workers shall witness its first hearing on August 22 this year. The workers are represented by a voluntary lawyer from Sendai city. “Well, the court case will take a long time,” the Kumiai member said.

Article 02 of Japanese Labour Standards Act says, “Working conditions should be determined by the workers and employers on an equal basis.” When asked if the goal of attaining this equality near, the Kumiai member responded, “There is a long way to go.”

For updates about the court case, visit the website of Tohoku University Kumiai : http://tohokudai-kumiai.org

The Sentinel shall also publish the official statement from the university once it receives. 

As reported by The Sentinel Bureau.

Photos Courtsey : Tohoku University Kumiai Facebook Page (Public)

References :

  1. No legal cure-all for fixed-term job insecurity (April 24, 2012): https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2012/04/24/issues/no-legal-cure-all-for-fixed-term-job-insecurity/#.WzWEu62B2qA
  2. Labour Standards Act : http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail_main?id=5&vm=2&re=
  3. ‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs : https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/27/issues/five-year-rule-triggers-tohoku-college-massacre-jobs/#.WzWG8a2B2qA
  4. 1968 : The year Japan truly raised its voice : https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/11/19/arts/1968-year-japan-truly-raised-voice/#.WzWzsa2B2qA
  5. Japan’s universities struggling under corporate status : https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/05/14/commentary/japan-commentary/japans-universities-struggling-corporate-status/#.WzXbqa2B2qA
  6. Tohoku University Kumiai : http://tohokudai-kumiai.org
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    Original Link  to this article.

Tozen Kudo Local Wins Pay Parity, Shakai Hoken!

工藤企画支部の勝利報告!ー男女同一賃金・​社保を勝ち取る

King Coel’s Kittens Fireworks Spectacular

Good day to all Tozen members.

東ゼン労組の皆さん、こんにちは

I’m Ryu Aoyagi, member of Kudo local. We are here to celebrate our victory for the last CBA (collective bargaining agreement) to win some demands from Kudo management:

1. Equal pay for Verly (the only female member) through a pay hike from to the minimum wage ¥960/hr to ¥1250/hr

2. Enrolled local Kudo members in Shakai Hoken

3. Agreement on addressing power harassment for all Kudo employees

4. Agreement on forklift assignment for Fred and eventually for Ryu

私たちは、下記の要求事項を巡る団体交渉の結果として、工藤企画と労働協約を締結しました。

ヴァーリー組合員(支部の唯一の女性)に対して、最低賃金の時給960円から、男性労働者と同額である時給1、250円に引き上げる。

全組合員に対する社会保険への加入

パワーハラスメントなどについての苦情処理制度の導入

フレッド組合員、後に青柳組合員に対して、フォークリフト業務の維持

Magandang araw sa inyo Lahat membro ng Tozen Nandito tyo para ipahayag sa inyo Lahat sa satin pag ka panalo sa CBA- kolekta subasta contrata sa lokal na fuso kudo kompanya ng makuha natin ang mga Ilan demand ng katulad ng parehas na bayad kay verly ng membro ng Tozen from minimum wage na 960¥hr hangang 1250¥hr at pag enroll sa membro ng Tozen sa shakai hoken Pag sang ayon sa kapangyarihan ng haras sa loob ng kompanya at pag sang ayon sa pag sakay ni Fred sa forkclip at balang araw c ryu din Maraming salamat

Thank you,
Ryu Aoyagi
Kudo Local

Devilish Japanese TV drama makes a mockery of workplace rights

Devilish Japanese TV drama makes a mockery of workplace rights

“You have the right to quit this company.”

The heroine utters this line at the climax of every episode of a TV drama series currently airing on Saturday nights, “Miss Devil” (“Devil of Human Resources”).

The setting is Kyoa Fire Insurance. Out of nowhere, a leggy beauty with sharp eyes and even sharper eyeliner arrives on the scene. The firm’s president reportedly headhunted her to overhaul corporate culture at Kyoa. Rumor has it that Mako Tsubaki made her name in the U.S. as a “termination consultant,” moving from place to place and firing people with outrageous abandon, cruelty and callousness (not unlike the character played by George Clooney in the 2009 film “Up in the Air”).

Miss Devil has a past shrouded in mystery, and employees are terrified of her — particularly one new hire, Hiroshi Saito. He is moved to a department whose sole mission is to find employees to downsize.

Each episode drops another crumb on a trail that seems to lead to some dark secret lurking in Tsubaki and the firm’s past, a secret that the final episode will surely reveal.

Famed actress Nanao (who prefers to go by one name) plays the main role. A former “race queen” (a Japanese term for grid girl, brolly dolly, or pit babe, i.e. a promotional model that hangs around at motor racing events), Nanao, at 172 cm, is quite tall for a Japanese woman — taller than many men. People say she is “nine heads tall,” and that is no exaggeration. What a stunning figure she has! And how intimidating it would be to stand next to her (I’m only 152 cm). We can understand why she was cast to play this cold-blooded ice queen.

The devil enlists the young Hiroshi to decide who should be fired next. In real life it makes no sense to target new hires for dismissal, but this is TV drama world, so they do. Incidentally, some fans have gleefully detected an S&M theme with the young, cute and shy Hiroshi juxtaposed against the tall, super-mini-skirted older woman/dominatrix.

OK, OK, you’re right: A TV drama is, at the end of the day, nothing more than mind-candy entertainment. Maybe it doesn’t even deserve to be contemplated or analyzed. Perhaps it’s my occupational hazard, but whenever I see a drama about labor issues, I cannot help but think about these things.

Blaming the victim

Although each standalone episode tackles tough issues facing workers today, the last scene of each episode destroys any semblance of authenticity as Miss Devil struts in her high heels onto the scene to thwart the villain and save the day.

The seven episodes broadcast thus far have included the following storylines:

A woman whose husband has terminal cancer is being sexually harassed by her boss. She needs the job to pay her husband’s medical bills, so she endures it.

A middle manager in his 40s must clean up the mess left by a young man in his 20s who spends all his time enjoying himself (heaven forbid) due to the company’s new no-overtime policy. His unfinished work ends up on others’ desks. The middle-aged man’s frustration eventually explodes.

A pregnant worker is exploited by her male boss to showcase the company’s woke attitude when it comes to women. She begs her boss to “let” her quit, but he refuses, so as to protect the firm’s we-don’t-commit-maternity-harassment reputation.

So who in the above episodes got the ax? (Warning! Spoilers begin here:) The woman whose husband has terminal cancer; the man in his 40s who cleans up his irresponsible junior’s mess; and — you guessed it — the pregnant woman.

So why do these workers who did nothing wrong — who were, in fact, being victimized — get fired? Young Hiroshi wonders the same thing and asks her directly.

Fortunately, Tsubaki clears up any confusion. The employee whose husband has cancer, for example, had fraudulently misrepresented her performance and even forged contracts in order to increase her wages. Tsubaki knew it (somehow) from the very beginning. The woman, now exposed, turns away and sobs quietly. Tsubaki faces her and says, “You have the right to quit this company,” then lays a pen and paper on the desk. The weeping woman writes “Resignation notice.”

The woman’s sexual harasser boss doesn’t get away scot-free, though. He tries to hug Tsubaki. She says deadpan: “You do this (sexual harassment) again, and you’ll get even worse that what you’re about to get.” And with that, in her high heels, she delivers a perfect roundhouse kick to the boss.

Young Hiroshi goes and meets the woman some time after her resignation, expecting her to be depressed. But in fact, she’s quite relieved. She had shocked herself by going as far as to commit fraud to pay her husband’s medical bills, but now she was free of that and free of the sexual harassment she had endured — and free to spend what little remaining time she had with her ill husband. (No mention is made of how the bills are now getting paid despite no wage income.) Hiroshi sees the joy in the woman’s face and realizes that Miss Devil is in fact a heroine.

The other stories are similar: Each firing has some deeper purpose that in the end benefits the hapless victim. This authoritarian lesson boils down to “It’s for your own good” and “I know what’s good for you more than you do yourself.” In each case, Miss Devil delivers the liberating line deadpan: “You have the right to resign from this company.”

Firing is your friend

What the heck? She roundhouses the bad guy but drives his victim out of the company? Yet each time she fires an employee or pressures an employee to resign, the ordeal is portrayed as a good deed and even a kindness to the victim.

She’s unreal — a cardboard cutout superhero, a female Ultraman or Power Ranger. The show’s writers insinuate that this “ax woman” is the only one who can expose the injustices and bullying happening at the company, and that her cruel persona is necessary to give her the opening to fight the good fight.

I cannot accept this whole premise. Of course, workers have the right to resign. But that choice is up to the individual’s free will, rather than something they should be pressured into. Another right is the right to continue to work at a workplace. Leaving is not the only solution to every job-related problem.

Each problem must be solved at the workplace, among workers. Tsubaki lacks that imagination. She sees — and we are asked to see — separation as the cure-all for workplace blues. Many viewers might wish a Miss Devil worked at their company to deal justice to a hated boss, but one person alone cannot create a good workplace environment.

Another premise of this drama that I find unnatural is that the fired (or forced-to-resign) employees all come to feel thankful for Tsubaki’s tough love. Few firings result in such happy endings in real life, in my experience. It is difficult even to fight against unfair dismissals. The show’s creators are perhaps trying to brainwash management and workers alike into thinking that dismissals make people happy.

There’s also the gender issue. Tsubaki does a great job in smashing the fixed role assigned to women in Japanese companies: smiling, polite, thoughtful. She shuns all politesse and tatemae (pretense) and represents the polar opposite of the blushing coquette image that many women in Japan cultivate so well. Some viewers may want to emulate her calculated cool. I can understand this, too.

But she is the enemy of her co-workers at Kyoa Fire. Recall that she was headhunted precisely to help heads roll. She is an outsider coming in to rip apart the workforce at the behest of management.

Another assumption is that the women who were already in the company (and not exposed to transmogrifying foreign/U.S. influence) are helpless without the aid of this outside heroine. The drama’s loud, obnoxious message flies in the face of the reality that women can and do band together in solidarity to improve conditions at workplaces every day. Together, these women hold the real power, not one tough cookie of a superheroine.

Abe walks a tightrope on Japan’s foreign worker policy

The number of foreign nationals working in Japan reached its highest-ever level in October 2017 at 1,278,670, according to a study by the labor ministry (bit.ly/mhlwhoudou). The foreign proportion of the population remains tiny compared to that in European countries or North America, yet the impact of the growing ranks of foreign workers is considerable in Japan, where the myth of ethnic homogeneity stubbornly persists (despite the existence of minorities, such as the Ainu and Okinawan people). What is this impact?

Well, that depends on the type of citizen being impacted upon. Let’s divide the citizenry into three broad categories based on their basic attitude toward foreign residents in general.

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中労委は、組合妨害阻止命令を支持

中央労働委員会は、2018年3月29日(木)に、東ゼン労組が文際学園を相手に不当労働行為の救済を申し立てた件について、東京都労働委員会の命令を支持するという判断を下した。
東ゼン労組は、2013年に同学園が組合活動である情宣活動を妨害したと、主張して東京都労働委員会に不当労働行為の救済を申し立てた。それに対して、都労委は2016年1月に、文際学園に妨害を阻止し、組合に謝罪するよう命令した。
しかし、都労委は、もうひとつの不当労働行為(組合活動の理由により、ある組合員が解雇された問題)の救済を棄却した。
しかし、妨害の件に関しては、文際学園は、中労委に不服を申し立て、組合側は、解雇問題に関して不服を申し立てた。中労委は、木曜日にどちらの不服を棄却した。

National Labor Board Upholds Ruling Against JCFL

Victory!

The Central Labor Relations Commission ruled on Thursday March 29th that Japan College of Foreign Languages (JCFL, a division of Bunsai Gakuen) had illegally interfered with Tozen Union’s leafleting actions in front of the school.

Tozen Union and its JCFL Local argued that management interfered with legitimate union activity by sending employees out to block the union from passing out leaflets at two separate leafletings in 2013.

In January of 2016, Tokyo Labor Relations commission ruled in favor of the union’s petition, ordering management to cease all such interference and to post a large sign apologizing to the union at the workplace for ten days.  Management immediately appealed.  That appeal was formally rejected on Thursday.

The victory was thanks to the relentless struggle of the local.