Tokyo General Union (Tozen) protests the firing of member Sulejman Brkic in front of the language school ICC. He worked there for 22 years and was fired for asking for his legally allotted paid holidays.
Every year, thousands of young native English-speakers fly to Asia in search of an adventure, financed by working as English teachers. They come from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Britain, Canada and elsewhere.
But it can be risky leaping into another country on the promise of an “easy” job. In Japan’s competitive English teaching market, foreign language instructors are treading water. “Subcontractor” teachers at corporate giant Gaba fight in the courts to be recognized as employees. Berlitz instructors become embroiled in a four-year industrial dispute, complete with strikes and legal action. Known locally as eikaiwa, “conversation schools” across the country have slashed benefits and reduced wages, forcing teachers to work longer hours, split-shifts and multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
This morning Tozen JCFL Local members, Tozen members, and supporters conducted a leafleting at JCFL in an effort to build our union there. Below is our report.
After gathering we walked together towards the school, put on our armbands, and got to leafleting. We began leafleting at 8:40. Several staffers immediately stood in front of the union members attempting to block them. The members kept their cool and persisted in leafleting, trying hard to get the leaflets to the students without touching the staffers. I tried to confront the staffers individually, informing them that this was a union action and they should not interfere. The staffers either ignored me or told me that they were outside to protect the students from cars, and that they are out there every day. Principal Iizuka said this several times as well. School staff, however, do not greet students in the street on a daily basis.