A labor panel ordered a Tokyo university Wednesday to not refuse to use English in negotiations with a foreign teachers’ labor union at its affiliated school.
Tokyo Gakugei University had notified the union at Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School that it would hold talks only if Japanese is used, said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Labor Relations Commission.
The panel branded the policy an “unfair” labor practice and ordered the state-run university to correct it.
The Tokyo Labor Relations Board on Wednesday ordered Tokyo Gakugei University to “engage in collective bargaining without insisting it be conducted in Japanese or that (the union) bring an interpreter.”
In the first case of its kind, Tozen Union and the TGUISS Teachers Union had sued the school for making negotiations in Japanese a condition of holding collective bargaining.
The university argued that talks should be in Japanese because “this is Japan” and that forcing management to negotiate in a foreign language would be an intolerable burden.
I research labor law and teach it to university students. In the first class, I break up the two groups of labor laws — those related to individual and collective labor relations — for my students. Individual labor relations law begins and ends with the 1947 Labor Standards Act (rōdō kijun hō); its collective counterpart is surely the 1950 Trade Union Act (rōdō kumiai hō).
About 99.9 percent of my 18-20-year-olds look blank the first time they hear the word “rōdō kumiai,” or labor union. Some of them have arubaito (part-time jobs) and thus already have become rōdōsha (workers) protected by labor laws, but they have not heard of labor unions and have no idea what such a creature looks like. I have my work cut out trying to explain to them the concepts of labor unions, collective bargaining and striking.
June 17th, 2016 1:25 PM
Tokyo District Court on Friday overturned Japan’s Pension Agency’s 2011 decision rejecting Tozen member Yancey Co’s appeal to enroll in Japan’s shakai hoken health and pension scheme.
Co’s employer Berlitz Japan had kicked him off shakai hoken in 2008, after his work hours apparently fell below 30 hours per week in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The 30-hour, or 3/4 of a full timer, threshold can be found nowhere in labor law but rather in the agency’s internal memo dated June 6, 1980.
The English language instructor from Vancouver, Canada, had asked the agency to force Berlitz to enroll him but through three appeals the agency ruled against him.
After four and a half years of litigation, Tozen Union sees the Friday victory as a partial victory only.
“We insisted that the memo has no legal force and should not be used to kick someone off shakai hoken,” said Louis Carlet, an executive of Tozen Union. “We were hoping the court would declare the memo illegal. Unfortunately the judge didn’t go that far.”
Tozen Attorney Shoichi Ibuski said, “This is one step forward and we hope to use this to go further still.”
(See video presentation below.)
Many of our members are not Japanese and work at small or very small companies. Working at small companies has many advantages: it’s often more human and you have a direct relationship with the boss. However, if there are problems, those good points often turn into bad ones, since you can be on the receiving end of arbitrary decisions that are difficult to remedy, especially if you do not know your rights. Let’s take an example of a common problem that we at Tozen have to deal with quite often: illegal dismissal.