Strike and Nationwide Protest against Union-Busting at ELS-Berlitz in Sapporo

Demonstrators gathered in front of ELS-Berlitz schools in Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Tokyo last Saturday to protest dismissals of four union members at the Sapporo ELS-Berlitz school.

Friends and students joined union members to hand out over 600 leaflets during a strike at the Sapporo school, while in Tokyo, Berlitz teachers and other union members called for reinstatement of the Sapporo Four, and in Fukuoka, the Fukuoka General Union delivered a letter of protest during a demonstration at the ELS-Berlitz school there.

ELS bought the Berlitz school in Sapporo last April, and many teachers continued working for the new owner, teaching exactly the same Berlitz lessons, albeit under contract to a new employer. Teachers who had been unionized at Berlitz soon formed a new branch to protect their working conditions at ELS, and started negotiating with the company. ELS responded by firing one member in February, and announcing the dismissal of the other three as of March 31. Out of 17 teachers, only the union members were fired – ELS calls this “coincidence”. The union calls it unfair labour practice and a violation of Trade Union Law.

The company gives “poor performance” as the reason for dismissal, yet the teachers are all experienced instructors, ranging in seniority from 6 years to 27 years, and have held positions of responsibility such as Instructional Supervisor and Assistant Instructional Supervisor at the school. One of the dismissed members is still being asked to do assessments and demo lessons for prospective customers, hardly a job one would assign to a poor teacher.

Strikes and demonstrations will continue until the company retracts these unfair dismissals.

Begunto Trick-or-Treats with Berlitz in Omiya

Flash Demo at Berlitz Omiya Branch

Teachers Disciplined For Trivial Reasons

The disrequest system at Berlitz is just one example of threats to job security faced by teachers in the eikaiwa industry. HR representatives claim that a pattern of complaints concerning any particular instructor can lead to discipline, and that six to eight official disrequests over a period of two years is enough to constitute a pattern.

Given that teachers may meet hundreds of students and teach thousands of lessons over the period of a year, added to the fact that complaints can be based on anything from the teacher?s facial expression (?she didn?t smile?) to completely subjective judgements (?we weren?t a good match?), the unfairness of this standard is immediately apparent.

The union cannot allow teachers to face discipline, and potential threats to their livelihood, based on such standards. BEGUNTO will continue to fight for job security both at Berlitz, and throughout the industry.

Berlitz Tokyo Union Protests Pay Freeze

Across the Tokyo region, Berlitz language teachers are striking. Members of the Begunto Union, the Berlitz teachers’ union in the Tokyo region of Japan, are striking against management actions regarding a pay freeze and introduction of new work contracts they see as less than satisfactory.

Nationwide Probe of 750 Language Schools

The evening edition of the Asahi Shimbun carried a story by Ari Hirayama about a nationwide probe of 750 language schools suspected of not enrolling foreign teachers in shakai hoken (employee pension and health scheme), not only on the front page but as the top story. It even beat out Saddam Hussein’s indictment. Bob Tench, president of our Nova branch, was quoted before Berlitz’s personnel chief Masanori Iwai. Nova public relations department was quoted as saying they couldn’t get ahold of the person in charge of that issue.