東ゼン大学ー職場の組織化 – Tozen Daigaku – How to organise your workplace.

Louis Carlet, Tony Dolan, and Orren Frankham present a Tozen Daigaku on how to safely organise your coworkers, what to be careful of, how to build up a union, and their own experiences in building unions.

Japanese Labour Union Act
Japanese Labour Relations Adjustment Act
Japanese Labour Standards Act

Bread & Roses: Squid Game Paints Capitalism in Deadly Red and Black

SNA (Tokyo) — Over 140 million people in over ninety countries around the world have already watched Squid Game, making the Hwang Dong-Hyuk creation the most-watched series in Netflix history.

Its pull is so powerful that many schools in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States banned Halloween costumes inspired by the drama (which are sold at Amazon.com). The mayor of Seoul has filed a police complaint against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for wearing the red and black costumes during a large protest rally.

I too couldn’t stop watching it. Korean dramas show no sign of stopping their march toward global popularity, but nothing has wielded the prowess of this one. Perhaps many of my readers are binging Squid Game as well.

When first seeing the title, you might think, as I did, “What the heck does “squid game” mean”? It’s the name of a game Korean children play in parks, and many such games emerge in the drama. But the players are quirky, diverse, and desperate adults. (Potential spoilers ahead…)

The unemployed 47-year-old protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun (played by Lee Jung-Jae), can’t keep up with his growing gambling debts despite stealing money from his aged mother.

He faces the prospect of never again seeing his little daughter, who lives with his ex-wife and her new husband. He is drawn voluntarily into a bizarre game that offers him and 455 others the chance to win 45.6 billion won (almost US$39 million) if they survive six children’s games.

Here survive means, yes, survive.

This dark fantasy recalls Parasite, the 2019 Academy Award-winning film directed by Bong Joon-Ho. In its own credulity-straining way, Squid Game goes further, taking vicious stabs at the brutal inequality of our society and economy.

The work indicts capitalism itself. Players voluntarily risk their own and others’ lives in twisted child’s play in pursuit of a huge pile of cash that literally hangs over their heads.

The organization running the tournament represents the modern corporation, with a black-clad figure at the corporate helm and hierarchical layers of management, indicated by simple geometric shapes on red suits.

The players who risk their lives for a tiny chance to climb out of debt represent the proletariat.

In their real lives, penury, debt, and humiliation have driven them to the edge of suicide, only to be lured into this one lark of a last chance. The organizers set them in cruel competition against each other.

Super-rich VIP guests, representing shareholders, finance the entire project through gambling on the players like horses. They bet on their players by number and view the competition from a safe distance.

As players are “eliminated,” the pot of money they all fight for gets larger, underlining how human beings’ very lives have been commodified with an explicit price tag: 100 million won (about US$390,000) per life.

Organizers assert that the games are fair, equitable, and free of the discrimination the players face out in the real world.

The Front Man (corporate head) scolds a contestant for “interfering with democracy.” (He later apologizes for permitting an element of unfairness to enter the games.)

This mirrors the spine-chilling propaganda that bombards us daily to manufacture our consent to a brutal system created and run by our rulers, a system that includes frequent murderous acts of aggression and war by the global hegemon.

This game depicts Karl Marx’s analysis of class struggle in Das Kapital in terror-inducing relief, in a manner that drives home to the hearts of viewers the horror of our corporate system in a way that only art can.

That such a film cannot only be produced in South Korea but spread around the world faster than the worst pandemic in a century speaks volumes to a new zeitgeist that can no longer tolerate the lies, violence, and inequality.

The popularity of Kohei Sato’s award-winning 2020 work, Hitoshinse no Shihonron, or Capital in the Anthropocene, speaks to a rising consciousness of class struggle and a waning willingness to buy into our current political and economic system. This book calls for abandoning capitalism as the only way to claw our way out from our impending and self-wrought climate catastrophe.

I look forward to this trend continuing, to growing awareness of the desperate position of the working class vis-a-vis corporate power.

This article was written by Hifumi Okunuki, and originally published by the Shingetsu News Agency (SNA).

Tozen Berlitz Teachers Protest in Yurakucho 東ゼン労組ベルリッツ講師が有楽町で抗議行動

英語と日本語

On November 3, 2021, Berlitz teachers belonging to Tozen Union’s Begunto local, gathered in front of Berlitz Japan’s Yurakucho Language Center to demand the school reinstate wrongly terminated member Matt. They passed out over 100 leaflets to students and passersby, informing them of the union’s demand.

The corona pandemic has hurt Berlitz’ earnings, leading the company to offer voluntary early retirement packages and apply for government job-security assistance. The aid is premised on the company not laying off employees. Yet, the school has used the precarious employment of fixed-term contracts as a way to do what one member called, “back-door layoffs.”

In ordinary times, Berlitz automatically renews teachers’ one-year contracts, unless there is a major issue with a particular teacher. Now, the company has lowered the bar for non-renewals, taking away the job security teachers had enjoyed for decades.

The union is committed to fighting until the company reinstate our member Matt and to restoring job security for all Berlitz employees.

 

2021年11月3日(水)、東ゼン労組ベグント支部の組合員であるベルリッツ講師たちは、会社によるマット組合員への不当解雇を撤回し復職を要求すべく、ベルリッツジャパン有楽町ランゲージセンターに集結した。100部を超えるビラを生徒や通行人に配布し、組合の要求を伝える事ができた。

ベルリッツは、コロナ渦による収益への打撃を受け、講師への早期希望退職を募り、雇用調整助成金へ申込んだ。この助成金は、会社が従業員を解雇しないことを前提としているが、会社はこの有期雇用という不安定な雇用を、組合員に言わせれば「裏口解雇」として利用したのである。

通常、講師に特に大きな問題がない限り、ベルリッツは講師との1年契約を自動更新してきた。今や、会社は雇止めの基準を下げ、数十年に渡る講師の安定した雇用を乱した。

組合はマット組合員の復職、そして全てのベルリッツ講師の雇用の安定を取り戻すべく、この闘いに全力を尽くす姿勢だ。

Tozen Union Interac ALTs Strike & Protest in front of HQ 東ゼン労組のインタラックのALTら、スト&本社前で抗議

英語と日本語

On November 4, 2021, Interac Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in Kanagawa, Saitama, and Hokkaido struck for workplace safety and fair wages. Tozen members from Interac and other workplaces demonstrated in front of Interac Kanto South HQ in Yokohama.
“We work in high-risk environments during a global pandemic,” said one member. “Interac doesn’t seem to care about us.”
Tozen Union members demanded collective bargaining in November 2019, holding thirty-three sessions since. Initially, some progress was made, but Interac will not agree to provide masks to their ALTs. Despite healthy profits, Interac refuses to make a single concession on wages.

“We implore members of the schools – principals, teachers, parents, and boards of education to speak up and support our strike!”

 

2021年11月4日、インタラックの神奈川県、埼玉県、北海道で働く外国語指導助手(ALT)らは、職場の安全及び公正な賃金を求めてストライキを行った。インタラックや他の職場で働く東ゼン労組の組合員の仲間たちは、横浜にあるインタラック関東南の本社前で抗議をした。

「世界規模なパンデミックの最中、私たちはハイリスクな環境で働いています」と組合員の一人が言った。「とはいえ、インタラックは私たちを気にもかけていないように思えます」

2019年11月に、東ゼン労組の組合員らは団体交渉を求め、これまで33回におよぶ団体交渉を開催してきた。団交開始当初はは交渉に進歩が見られたが、インテラックは現在においてもALTらへのマスクの提供に合意していない。十分な黒字があるにもかかわらず、賃金に関して一切の譲歩もみせない姿勢である。

 

「校長先生や先生方、保護者の皆さま、教育委員会の方々、学校関係者の皆さまも、どうか声をあげて私たちのストライキの応援をよろしくお願いします!」

Bread & Roses: Are Actors “Laborers”?

SNA (Tokyo) — Suit-clad office workers, long-haul truck drivers, ramen shop food preparers, fake priests at faux churches, insurance solicitors, rice paddy farmers, maid cafe servers, security guards, nurses, train conductors, schoolteachers, nursery school caregivers, bank tellers, garbage collectors, plumbers, paralegals, social workers… How many megabytes would it take to list all jobs that occupy the days of the workers who make our society run?

Riddle me this: What job permits you, during a single lifetime, to experience any job on the planet?

Give up? Acting. An actor on stage or screen can do any job that exists and even any job that does not exist. On stage and for a limited time only, before the final curtain, you can become a queen or a serial killer.

The Japanese word rodosha is often translated as “laborer,” but the word “worker” better reflects the ubiquity of its usage. For labor law, however, the word rodosha should on most occasions be translated as “employee,” since it delineates a relationship with management, rather than one’s position in society.

In this piece, I will use rodosha, meaning “employee protected by the various labor laws in Japan.”

Is a stage actor a rodosha? Does she enjoy all protections accorded to a rodosha under labor law?

A recent court case may provide the answer.

Defendant Air Studio Company produces stage plays, films, studio management, handles celebrities, and runs restaurants. The theater troupe Air Studio stages performances nearly each week.

The plaintiff signed a contract and joined the troupe at age 22, dreaming of becoming an actor. In addition to performing on stage, the plaintiff also worked on sets, props, sound, lights, and other tech crew duties–all unpaid. After four years, the firm began paying him a ¥60,000 (US$540) “support stipend” each month. He devoted himself to acting and backstage work without a break, clocking up to twelve hours a day, with no time to eat properly. He fell into financial hardship. At the end of his rope and no future in sight, he left the troupe in 2016.

Then, he sued the company for back wages for his performances and tech crew work. The question arises: was he an employee? Was his work rodo, deserving of wages as stipulated in the Labor Standards Act?

On September 4, 2019, Tokyo District Court ruled that his backstage activities were indeed rodo and in engaging in those activities, he was indeed a rodosha, protected by labor laws. But the court did not recognize his acting on stage as the work of an employee of the company.

Both sides appealed the split verdict to the Tokyo High Court. The plaintiff insisted that his acting too was labor protected by labor law, while the defendant claimed that none of his various duties could be characterized as wage labor performed by an employee (rodosha).

Almost a year later, on September 3, 2020, the High Court ruled in favor of the actor, recognizing all the work, including performing on stage, as labor subject to wage regulations.

The lower court had said that acting on stage was an optional part of his job and that he was free to accept or refuse. Freedom to accept or refuse is a key principle that determines rodosha status in Japanese courts.

The appellate court agreed that the actor could refuse to act on stage with no apparent disadvantageous repercussions, but noted that “one joins a theater troupe in order to act on stage, making refusal inconceivable under normal circumstances. The troupe members prioritized completing the tasks received from the defendant and had no realistic option other than to comply with orders. Thus, they cannot be said to have had the right to accept or refuse.”

The Tokyo High Court concluded that the job fit the definition of a rodosha in Article 9 of the Labor Standards Act and ordered the defendant to pay unpaid wages of ¥1.85 million (US$16,670).

This verdict sent shock waves through the Japanese theater industry, where unpaid apprenticeships have always been the norm. Ripples had spread throughout the industry even with the lower court’s ruling that backstage work was… well… work. But the judge’s ruling that even acting on stage was subject to wage regulations terrified the industry.

We labor law academics have always considered anyone who must follow orders–regardless of the name of the job–as rodosha, but indignant business representatives asked if the court is trying to destroy the Japanese theater industry, and predicted the extinction of all theater troupes, other than giants such as Shiki Theater Company.

It’s fair to say that those pursuing an acting career often struggle with no money but abundant aspiration. Masato Sakai often speaks on television about how he dropped out of college to found his own theater troupe, only to have to string together part-time jobs for a decade as this theater attracted no audiences. He laughs while recounting how he resorted to eating wild dandelions when he was flat broke.

He is not alone–many successful actors share similar experiences.

Many might feel some resistance to this verdict, since this is a world actors choose willingly to dive into. Why should they be counted as an ordinary rodosha? If they are rodosha, then they are entitled to job security and cannot be fired without a darn, good reason.

Yet, actors usually must audition to get parts in a world of cutthroat competition with few cast.

I understand this sentiment for what it’s worth. At the same time, I oppose settling for some sort of extraterritoriality that deprives actors of all labor law protections. While considering the special nature of the work of an actor, we must also ensure an environment that enables them to live lives befitting of human beings.

 

This article was written by Hifumi Okunuki, and originally published by the Shingetsu News Agency (SNA).

Bread & Roses: Osaka Rules Against Taxi Dispatcher for Transphobic Dress Code

SNA (Tokyo) — We were told that the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) marked the “dawn” of a new age for female workers in Japan. No more could employers blithely set up special marry-and-leave retirement systems for their female employees, a practice that had been considered perfectly legal. Several amendments boosted the reach of the law and wording revisions extended protection from gender discrimination and sexual harassment to male workers.

But, in many ways, Japan remains stuck in its old patriarchic ways. Bucking an international trend, Japan still prohibits same-sex marriage and post-nuptial couples must choose one surname, usually the husband’s (unless one partner is a foreign national). And the law retains the word “gender,” leaving unclear what if any protection is extended to LGBTQ workers.

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東京外国語大学、フランス語教師の不当解雇訴訟第1回期日

東ゼン労組ならびに東ゼン大学教職員組合の組合員であるジェローム・ルボワ(以下、「ルボワ組合員」という)が、不当解雇の撤回を求めて東京外国語大学を訴えた裁判の第1回期日が9月30に日に行われた。

ルボワ組合員は、2010年7月21日から東京外国語大学でフランス語教師として勤務し始めたが、今年の3月31日に解雇された。
組合側は、大学側が主張する解雇理由を争っており、何度も団体交渉において協議を重ねたが、大学側は解雇撤回をしない姿勢を貫いたため訴訟に至った。
9月22日には、大学前でルボア組合員の解雇撤回を求めるビラ配りを行った。このビラ配り活動には、東京外国語大学の学生組合である「ルボワ先生の外大復職を求める会」も参加し、同日,組合と学生の共同声明を発表した。


東ゼン労組とルボワ先生の外大復職を求める会(学生組合)の共同声明

ルボワ組合員は、学生たちからも人気のある教員であり、下記のような声を学生たちから受けている。

– 語学が苦手な僕にとって、ルボワ先生の分かりやすく面白い授業は、常に学習の励みでした。今では、フランス語の読解が必要な研究にも取り組むほどです。多くの生徒の学習意欲を向上させるには、先生のユーモアに富んだ授業が不可欠であるはずです!

– ルボワ先生は、非常に学生思いの先生です。また、ルボワ先生の授業のおかげでフランス語を楽しみながら身につけることができました。ルボワ先生の授業が恋しいです…!

– 日本語が巧みな先生のフランス語指導は、どの教授よりもわかりやすかったです!

– ルボア先生のフランス文化社会学の授業や、フランスの歴史の授業が大好きでした。
フランスの話だけではなく、日仏比較を交えた講義は日本史を専門としていらっしゃるルボア先生ならではのもので、いまでは受講なくなってしまいとても悲しいです。

– ルボア先生の語学、そしてフランス社会や歴史の授業が全て大好きで、毎回とても楽しみにしていました。コロナ禍でオンライン授業になっても、前と同じように板書や説明を丁寧にしてくださったので、問題なく楽しく授業に参加できました。外大生がルボア先生の授業をまた受けられるようになることを、心から願っています。

東ゼン労組とルボワ先生の外大復職を求める会は、東京外国語大学に対し、一日も早くルボワ組合員の解雇撤回するよう求め、今後も闘う姿勢を示したい。

Begunto Leafleting Action ベグントのビラ配り

On Saturday 25th September 2021, Tozen’s local, Begunto held a leafleting action in Nihonbashi.

Begunto recently entered into a dispute, and members are fighting for the reinstatement of our member Matt Wiegand.

2021年09月25日(土)、日本橋で東ゼン労組のベグント支部はビラを配った。

最近、ベグント支部は労働紛争に入って、 マット組合員の復職を求めて闘っている。

 

La justice japonaise donne raison à un représentant du Tozen contre le Lycée Français de Tokyo – Tozen leader wins wage case against French lycée in Tokyo

(English below the French)

Le 27 septembre, un tribunal spécial du travail (rodo shimpan) a ordonné au Lycée Français international de Tokyo de verser le montant les heures supplémentaires non payées à Amjid Alam, président de l’Union des Personnels du Lycée Français international de Tokyo (UPL) de Tozen Union.

L’école française a deux semaines pour faire appel de la décision auprès du tribunal du district de Tokyo.

Notre correspondant juridique Tozen News a rencontré Alam dans le hall du bâtiment du tribunal, juste après la victoire.

“Ma demande était justifiée. La loi japonaise doit être respectée. Je ne dirais pas que c’est une victoire, car tout ce que cela signifie, c’est que l’école doit respecter le droit du travail local. C’est quelque chose qui aurait dû être fait dès le début”.

(Nous mettrons cette page à jour si la direction décide de faire appel).

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