Venerable site: Students taking part in an anti-war rally file out through the gates of Tohoku University in Sendai in 1950. The storied university recently revealed that it plans not to renew the fixed-term contracts of up to 3,200 employees, thereby ensuring that they will not be able to become regular staff according to a recent revision to the Labor Contract Law. | KYODO

‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs

I have discussed the “five-year rule” several times before in this column — the revision of the Labor Contract Law (Rodo Keiyaku Ho) enacted in 2013. Under the amendment, any worker employed on serial fixed-term contracts (yūki koyō) for more than five years can give themselves permanent status. See my earlier stories for more details, particularly my March 2013 column, “Labor law reform raises rather than relieves workers’ worries

The amendment was supposed to give workers more job security. Or at least that is what lawmakers claimed the purpose was. From the start I had my doubts — doubts that are now being borne out.

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‘Same work, same pay’ goal may spark a race to the bottom

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently come out to make the case for “same work, same pay.” Call me a cynic, but I suspect an ulterior motive. For years, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policies have focused on helping prop up struggling corporations and their managers, with working people treated as more of a nuisance. It is therefore hard to believe that the LDP has suddenly grown a heart that aches over the travails of millions of unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, unpaid and otherwise un-somethinged workers.

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Tozen Vlog for May 18, 2014

Tozen Vlog for April 8, 2014

Tozen Vlog for April 2, 2014 – Redacted Due to Victory!

GABA Workers Union

Tozen Report: All Day Dispute Action Against GABA

Last Friday, Tozen GABA Workers Union took its first all day action against GABA’s threat to fire Tozen GABA Workers Union President Tyler Christensen.

We began at 6AM to leaflet GABA Shinagawa Learning Studio. We moved on to Gaba corporate HQ at 9AM. There as we handed out leaflets, GABA representative Satomi Odaka emerged from the building.

The union handed Mr. Odaka a notification of dispute, outlining the specific demands of our dispute.  You can read about them here.  Mr. Odaka responded by asking for our “road use permit,” which we don’t need, physically obstructing Case Officer Gerome Rothman and threatening to call the police.

GABA then took the step of calling the police in an attempt to shut down our protest.  We explained to the police that we were conducting legitimate union activity.  The police decided not to interfere.

We did a loud protest call with the megaphone, and concluded our action. After that, we filed a protest with the company demanding an apology for their obstruction of legitimate union activity.  We demanded they follow the law and desist from interference with union activity.

GABA Workers Union

Tozen went to Yokohama Learning Studio, where Tyler works.  During leafleting, Tyler spoke directly to his colleagues, sharing his story and drawing their support.  He also took to the megaphone in an appeal to GABA management, asking them to “Let me do my job.”

GABA members and Tozen supporters wrapped up their protest at the end of the GABA work day, in Chiba.  We leafleted at the Chiba Learning Studio.

Our first protest against GABA spanned 2 prefectures and the Tokyo Metropolis, 3 Learning Studios, and GABA HQ.  We confronted a hostile management, and meaningfully engaged with sympathetic members of the GABA community.

We would love to think that a marathon fourteen hours of protesting GABA’s stubbornness will mean the end of our struggle for Tyler.  We know, however, this is just the very beginning.

We need your help.

Tozen will not back down when its members are threatened with unfair discipline and attacks on their rights as workers. Tozen knows that all workers in Japan have the right to join a union, negotiate with management, and take collective action to improve their working conditions.

Join our fight.  Let’s make GABA better for everybody.

Teachers tread water in eikaiwa limbo

BY CRAIG CURRIE-ROBSON
Jan 22nd, 2014
Illustration  by  TIM O'BREE
Illustration by TIM O’BREE

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.

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Matahara: turning the clock back on women’s rights

SOURCE: NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF POPULATION AND SOCIAL SECURITY RESEARCH 14TH CHILDBIRTH TREND STUDY (2011); GRAPHIC BY TIM O'BREE
SOURCE: NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF POPULATION AND SOCIAL SECURITY RESEARCH 14TH CHILDBIRTH TREND STUDY (2011); GRAPHIC BY TIM O’BREE

Matahara: turning the clock back on women’s rights
Maternity harassment‘ concept coined amid reports of bullying over pregnancy at work
BY HIFUMI OKUNUKI

“When I told my company I was pregnant, they fired me.”
“I was delighted to be hired by a company I loved. Then my boss made me promise not to get pregnant for a while.”

In last October’s Labor Pains, I discussed maternal job rights in “Labor law protects expectant and new mothers — to a point.” Today, I would like to address a new legal concept known as “maternity harassment,” or matahara, in the syllabic acronym engendered by this growing — and disturbing — trend.

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