Tozen Union Leaders Meet with Education Ministry over Simul’s Law Flouting

Tozen Union leaders and members met with officials from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) on Nov. 26 to protest Simul International’s labor practices. The language school fired much of its long-serving staff just prior to them gaining the right to permanent employment after five years of service. The right is guaranteed under the amended Labor Contract Law.


Simul does frequent and lucrative business with MEXT, including interpreting for major international conferences. The union has already sued the company in the Tokyo Labor Commission for illegal refusal to negotiate in good faith.


President Hifumi Okunuki  accompanied Field Director Gerome Rothman, members Ian Duncan, Chris Harrington, and Robert Carnochan to present a request to the ministry to investigate Simul’s evasion of the so-called five-year rule

Union officials gave an overview of the case, and members then explained how the sudden firing has disrupted long-term plans and family lives. They asked the ministry to encourage Simul to reinstate the fired members immediately. The ministry expressed concern but stopped short of promising results.





Finally, the union asked MEXT to arrange a formal meeting to discuss the matter further.

Tozen Union Marks a Whole ‘nother Victory Against Heart!


Tozen Union Marks a Whole ‘nother Victory Against Heart!
Tozen Union Marks a Whole ‘nother Victory Against Heart!


Just weeks after the Tokyo Labor Commission ruled against Heart Corporation and its insistence on holding collective bargaining only in Ibaraki Prefecture – hours from Tokyo, Tozen Union scored another win last week as the ALT dispatcher finally agreed to meet in Tokyo.

Now, Tozen will be fighting for Ravy’s reinstatement. Heart fired Union Member Ravy in 2016 for seeking assistance from coworkers during a painful personal crisis. Tozen Union demanded CB, but Heart President Tatsumi Wakabayashi insisted the venue be in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where the company is headquartered, even though Ravy had worked in Yokohama and Tozen is headquartered in the capital.

After several attempts to work out the venue issue and repeated refusals by the company, Tozen last year sued at the Tokyo Labor Commission. Wakabayashi was reportedly outraged that the labor commission in Tokyo, not Ibaraki, would adjudicate, since it meant that he had to come to Tokyo several times any way.

The meirei verdict orders Heart to “engage in collective bargaining in good faith toward an agreement over the dismissal and unpaid wages without insisting on Mito as the venue.” It also suggests Tokyo as the venue for collective bargaining session number 1.

Heart perhaps didn’t feel like fighting an appeal, which also would be in Tokyo. Wakabayashi has finally resigned himself to the fact that he has to negotiate and not set all the rules unilaterally.

Labor Commission to Heart: Don’t demand union come to you!


Tokyo Labor Commission on Friday handed down a win to Tozen Union against Heart Corporation, ruling that the ALT dispatcher had refused collective bargaining in violation of Article 7.2 of Japan’s Trade Union Act.

The corporation has a notorious history of treating ALTs with utter contempt. Heart is “one of the worst in a terrible industry,” as described by Tozen organizer Louis Carlet.

The inaptly named corporation fired Union Member Ravy in 2016 for seeking assistance from coworkers during a painful personal crisis. Tozen Union demanded CB, but Heart President Tatsumi Wakabayashi insisted the venue be in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, where the company is headquartered, even though Ravy had worked in Yokohama and Tozen is headquartered in the capital.

After several attempts to work out the venue issue and repeated refusals by the company, Tozen last year sued at the Tokyo Labor Commission. Wakabayashi was reportedly outraged that the labor commission in Tokyo, not Ibaraki, would adjudicate, since it meant that he had to come to Tokyo several times any way.

Heart may well appeal the ruling to the Central Labor Commission. Management might want to consider that carefully, however, since that commission is also located in Tokyo. Although Tozen here scored yet another victory, the dismissal has yet to be overturned.

Tozen Union Scores Paid Leave Win Over JCFL

Tozen Union members Todd, Tim, and Mark won a crucial court victory Friday over Japan College of Foreign Languages (Bunsai Gakuen). The school had denied paid leave to the teachers who work on zero-hour contracts, claiming that intervals between the one-semester contracts disrupt the continuity of their employment and therefore preclude any right to paid leave.

Tokyo District Court ruled that their employment is effectively continuous enough to claim the legal minimum allotment of paid holidays. The court ordered JCFL to pay for the paid leave already taken, plus interest, and to put up 1% of the plaintiffs’ legal costs.

Management has taken a hard line against Tozen Union and JCFL Workers’ Union in collective bargaining and is expected to appeal to Tokyo High Court. The union members lost a claim that the school’s refusal to give a copy of its work rules constituted power harassment.

東ゼン労組JCFL(日本外国語専門学校)支部組合員であるトッド、ティム、マークは、学校法人文際学園 日本外国語専門学校(JCFL)を相手に、自らの有給休暇の権利を求め、裁判の場で闘ってきましたが、2018112日、東京地方裁判所は、原告勝訴の判決を下しました。なお、本件では、組合員に対して就業規則の付与を拒絶し、その場で書き写すことのみ許可するという対応がパワーハラスメントであるという主張もしましたが、こちらは認められませんでした。







Tozen Union wins another victory over JCFL


The Tokyo Labor Commission ruled Monday morning that Japan College of Foreign Languages (JCFL, a division of Bunsai Gakuen) illegally discriminated against a member of the JCFL local due to his union activity by reducing his work load.  The commission held that in doing so JCFL management inflicted financial damages against him.  The commission ordered that JCFL pay the member backpay for his unpaid wages.

Further, the commission ruled that JCFL has been bargaining in bad faith about student satisfaction score data that had influenced management’s decision to reduce the workload of a union member.  Management was ordered to bargain in good faith.

The commission has ordered management to apologize for violating the constitutional rights of our members and to post a large sign apologizing to the union at the workplace for ten days.

The victory was thanks to the relentless struggle of the local.

The union had also filed several other claims with labor commission including interference with a leafleting and failure to bargain in good faith with the union by refusing to disclose the official work rules.  While these claims were not upheld by labor commission the union is considering filing an appeal.

Tozen Union has grown to 235 members in 20 locals.

Tokyo Medical University scandal is a throwback to when discrimination against women was the norm

Tokyo Medical University scandal is a throwback to when discrimination against women was the norm

Flabbergasted. That was my feeling last week reading the news of an example of brazen institutional sexism and fraud 33 years after the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

Each year since 2010, Tokyo Medical University fraudulently lowered the scores of female applicants who took the annual entrance exam, keeping the percentage of young women admitted at about 30 percent.

Only those who pass the school’s written multiple-choice exam can move on to the final short-essay-and-interview phase. The cap on number of admissions is set without reference to gender. This year 2,614 took the entrance exam, of which 61 percent were male and 39 female. The university took the women’s test scores and multiplied them by a coefficient less than 1 in order to reduce their scores across the board. This resulted in men comprising 67 percent of those passing phase one and 82 percent (141) of those passing both phases. Only 30 women (18 percent) managed to make it through to admission.

By 2010, the percentage of women gaining admission had skyrocketed to nearly 40 percent of the total. Many new female physicians leave the workplace for childbirth or child care, so some in the university apparently feared that too many women entering the ranks might lead to a dearth of qualified professionals. So some genius — a man, no doubt — had the bright idea of solving this problem by holding back women at the entrance exam stage. That is how the university has justified what it did.

The education ministry has stated: “A university can take responsibility for adjusting gender proportions if they make it explicit when they are recruiting for the entrance exams. If Tokyo Medical University made such an adjustment without explanation, then it is problematic.”

The media naturally have latched onto this issue since it came to light. Many people were angry and shocked. Women who failed this year’s entrance exam at the university wondered if they too had suffered from this unfair downgrade. They had spent so many sleepless nights, just like their male counterparts, studying to pass the test. Their efforts were betrayed.

Some spoke in anger, voices quivering. Even some male students who passed expressed frustration that they can’t have real confidence in themselves as students of this prestigious university since they may have squeaked in by taking the place of a more deserving female. The university has betrayed students of both genders.

Tired arguments resurrected

Part of what makes this a huge story is the financial, physical and mental cost involved in getting to the entrance exam in the first place.

Getting into medical school in Japan is tough in two ways. First, the level is simply very high, requiring one, two, three or even four years of devotion to study. Second, it is expensive. Private med school can cost you ¥20 million to 30 million ($180,000 to $270,000). A regular family of ordinary means cannot hope to pay for it.

Students going into private med school often are the children of doctors. Or at least they have the means. If they don’t, then public med school is the only choice. Even that can set your parents back a good ¥10 million.

And high school graduation cannot possibly prepare you in terms of the necessary knowledge for the entry test, so you’ll have to go to after-school prep school and study basically day and night. Of course, your family will have to cough up that tuition too. And that isn’t cheap either.

Some in the medical education world have known about and turned a blind eye to these universities who cheat women out of admission. Some say it has been an open secret.

“This is normal. All the schools are doing it,” said Dr. Ayako Nishikawa on the Aug. 5 edition of “Sunday Japon” on TBS. “If they just admit the best, the freshman class would be all female. Because girls are better. But then everybody will be ophthalmologists and dermatologists. Women can’t handle heavy people with hip dislocations.

“Few (women) become surgeons. After all, we need boys who will become surgeons. You can’t operate with a big belly. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to do something about gender ratios.”

Admittedly, she did at least recognize the need for such a gender adjustment to be announced.

While some criticized Nishikawa for promoting sexism, others echoed her and said she is simply relating the reality she sees as a physician. She is a plastic surgeon who has appeared numerous times on TV as a “celebrity doctor beauty.” Although her perspective might be different from ordinary physicians, there is no denying she is certified.

Or should that be certifiable?

Think of what she is saying. She looks at the world of medical study and says that affirmative action for men is fine and dandy. Then she justifies this position by enumerating women’s supposed physiological characteristics: They are weaker and have less stamina than men, will leave the profession once pregnant and so on. She related the lack of doctors in emergency rooms, surgery and other fields and claims that equal treatment will damage Japan’s medical system.

But do data from other countries back up Dr. Nishikawa’s assertions? Japan had the lowest proportion of female doctors of any Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country (see graph), below the U.S. and South Korea. At the other end of the rankings, Latvia and Estonia lead the pack with more than 70 percent of doctors being women.

So her claims don’t hold up under universal scrutiny. Other countries seem to be doing fine with very high percentages of women physicians.

To the extent that she is right about Japan, it reflects more the miserable working conditions Japanese doctors are subject to. Men who have stamina and care nothing about work-life balance are the only ones perhaps that can manage the job.

Instead of trying to remedy that problem, Tokyo Medical University manipulated test scores to rob spots from women who had burned with passion to become doctors, studied their cardiopulmonary systems out and passed some of the most challenging tests in Japan. Imagine going through all that only to be cheated at the end of it.

A legal battle already won

It’s difficult to look at this from a labor law point of view. I first must remind myself what century we are living in.

Once upon a time, statistics were used to justify unequal treatment. This was called statistical discrimination. What it meant was that since women were more likely, from a statistical point of view, to work fewer years, get pregnant/give birth (much more likely), raise children and quit their jobs, therefore corporations were justified in 1) not spending the nonrecoupable resources on training them, 2) in not hiring so many women and 3) in treating men and women differently.

Before 1985, many corporations used this statistical discrimination to justify introducing internal systems that forced women to resign upon marriage and systems of retirement that differed according to gender.

In one case ruled on in 1969, Tokyu Kikan Industry defended its system of retirement that pushed men out at 55 and women out at 30 thusly: “Continuing each year to raise, across the board, the wages of female employees hired to do auxiliary work that doesn’t require special skills or experience just like the wages of (male) workers who do the main work and work that requires skill and experience makes no sense. It would not only lower employee motivation; it would interfere with efforts to streamline management. So, setting the female employee retirement age at 30 makes sense.”

But 1985 saw the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (Kinto Ho), which prohibited discrimination from the recruiting stage, through hiring and to retirement. A gender-based retirement system was clearly outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1981 after a plaintiff sued Nissan Motor. Even today, however, employers find loopholes to treat female workers unfairly. But at least there is a clear legal framework that makes justifying gender discrimination impossible.

Tokyo Medical University discriminated against students who will be future workers. Many people, I think, have the impression that the highly specialized, “certificate-only” world of doctors and lawyers is more naturally gender-equal than the domain where ordinary private corporations dwell. My friend even became a lawyer because she thought she’d be shielded from the harsh sexist corporate world. I was shocked by this test score scandal and even more by the ho-hum reaction to it from many commentators.

We should really take a long, hard look at how unfair this score fraud is to female students, just as the corporate quit-upon-marriage and gender-based retirement age systems of yore were. Most importantly of all, the women who were bumped to make way for the boys need to be given immediate and proper redress.

Japan’s courts don’t share Mio Sugita’s views on supporting LGBT people, precedents show

Lawmaker Mio Sugita of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party found herself embroiled in controversy when the August edition of Shincho 45 was released on July 18. “Support for LGBTs has gone too far” screamed the headline of her article in the magazine.

This hard-right politician is already infamous online for her claim that the wartime network of sexual slavery serving the Imperial Japanese Army, euphemistically known as the “comfort women” system, is a fabrication of the Japanese left, and for attacking Koreans with such gems as “They spread their lies throughout the world.”

To mothers who lament the dearth of preschools available in Japan and demand that the central government take quick action to rectify the situation, she says: “That is your problem. You do something about it.”

She recognizes herself as conservative, right-wing and a patriot, and expresses animosity — even hatred — for the left, even penning a book titled “Why I Fight the Left.” The book heaps abuse on labor unions and praises nuclear power, casinos and the high-level professional overtime pay exemptions that will go into effect next April. Yet she loves Japan’s “beautiful culture and history.”

In her recent essay, she wrote: “Will people agree to have their taxes used on LGBT couples? They cannot have children, so they are unproductive.”

Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage. Local governments, on the other hand, have spearheaded efforts to use local ordinances to recognize same-sex partnerships. These include Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo and the cities of Iga in Mie Prefecture and Takarazuka in Hyogo.

Tolerance within society for the LGBT community is growing rapidly. IBM Japan, Kirin, Rakuten, Japan Tobacco and other corporations are moving ahead in instituting policies to provide the same level of special paid leave for marriage, childbirth, home care and other life events to same-sex couples as to those between a woman and man.

Unwelcome on golf course

Let me introduce to you a recent verdict to give an idea of what Japan’s courts are saying about LGBT people.

A golf course in the Shizuoka city of Kosai (whose name has not been released by the courts) refused membership to a corporate executive who had changed her registered gender from male to female. In Japan, this requires you to assert that you suffer from gender dysphoria. She sued the golf course for damages due to wrongful conduct, a violation of Japan’s Civil Code.

Shizuoka District Court ruled on Sept. 8, 2014, and the Tokyo High Court handed down a verdict on July 1, 2015. Both agreed with a portion of the claims and ordered the defendant to pay the hefty sum (by Japanese jurisprudent standards) of ¥1 million.

In its verdict, the appellate court clearly condemns discrimination against LGBT, although in a way that is likely jarring (or even maddening) to some: “Society understands quite well that being LGBT is not a matter simply of a hobby or predilection, but rather an illness that they suffer regardless of their will. The intolerability of irrational treatment based on the reason of gender dysphoria or on its treatment is the same as the intolerability of irrational treatment for the reason of other illnesses.”

One thing to consider is that the golf course has a bathing area, changing rooms and other “sensitive” facilities. The high court noted that the plaintiff is physically and in terms of appearance a woman, and that when she visited three times and used the bathing area and the changing room, there were no problems. Whatever damage the golf course operator envisioned it might suffer, the court said, was “nothing more than abstract fear.”

The opinion of other members of the golf course had no effect on the verdicts. The operator surveyed its members about the issue, and some 60 percent agreed with refusing her membership. The courts investigated the survey, however, and noted that it was conducted after the suit had begun and that questioners pushed respondents to answer in a way that was advantageous to them. “The results of the survey should not be given much weight,” read the verdict.

Even if the survey had accurately reflected the opinion of the members, the courts ruled that customers’ opinions could not justify discrimination.

Transgender woman wins

OK, let’s turn now to a proper labor law verdict. But to do that, we’ll have to go back a way, to 2002.

The plaintiff, a transgender woman, was working at Company S. She had yet to undergo reassignment surgery, but she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and had begun treatment. Although she hadn’t yet changed her registered gender, she had changed her name to a more stereotypically female one and wore women’s clothes to work.

Company S dismissed her for violating their dress code. She sued for reinstatement, back wages and bonus. Tokyo District Court ruled in her favor and overturned the dismissal.

The court ruled that the employer could not prohibit an employee from dressing as a woman at work, or transfer her for doing so, if she would suffer great emotional stress by not dressing as such due to gender dysphoria. The employer also could not do so just because clients and customers object or feel uncomfortable, provided those feelings do not rise to the level that threaten to seriously hinder the fulfillment of tasks at work.

Case law remains sparse, but it seems that if LGBT people really want to take their grievances to court, the courts believe that employers must take the proper treatment of the LGBT community seriously.

The Sagamihara parallel

LGBT people account for 7.6 percent of the Japanese population, according to a 2015 survey by Dentsu Diversity Lab. This estimate means that 1 in 13 Japanese are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That means that any reasonably sized workplace is likely to have at least one LGBT member.

Sugita ‘s comment really irritates me. I cannot understand how a politician, or even a member of our society, can stand there and deny the existence of someone because they cannot procreate.

The defendant in the appalling massacre on July 26, 2016, of 19 severely disabled people in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, said: “Those who can do nothing for themselves are a bane to society. On behalf of society, I did only what everyone else is thinking anyway.” He was confident in his pure fight in the name of justice.

His rationalization has something in common with Sugita’s comment. She might plausibly object that she has not called for the murder of LGBT people, so she shouldn’t be lumped together with a self-confessed mass killer. But at root, Sugita, like the Sagamihara suspect, denigrates and negates the existence of the “useless” human beings of the world.

Sugita has a daughter. What if she someday comes out to her mother? “I didn’t raise my daughter to be unproductive,” we can imagine her huffing.

Must our society be so rigid and conformist? Sugita claims she loves Japan’s history and culture more than any other politician, so she should know and be proud of the fact that ancient Japan was a hotbed of all manner of hugger-mugger and promiscuity — much of which was not at all “productive” in Sugita’s bizarre sense of the word.

Hifumi Okunuki teaches at Sagami Women’s University and serves as executive president of Tozen Union. She can be reached at Labor Pains appears in print on the last Monday of the month. Your comments and Community story ideas:

Plainte contre l’Institut français du Japon devant la justice japonaise

L’Institut français du Japon (IFJ) est à la fois un centre culturel dépendant de l’Ambassade de France au Japon et une école de français. Ce sont les cours de français qui assurent une grande partie du financement de l’établissement et de l’action culturelle de la France au Japon. Pourtant, depuis plusieurs années, l’IFJ a entrepris de dégrader systématiquement les conditions de travail des enseignants qui assurent ces cours.

En septembre 2015 la direction a unilatéralement annoncé une nouvelle grille salariale qui représente pour la plupart des enseignants une baisse de revenu pouvant aller jusqu’à près de 40% et un raccourcissement des contrats de 1 an à 6 mois. Ces changements à cette date avaient pour but de contourner la mise en vigueur au Japon de la loi sur les 5 ans, loi qui oblige, à partir du 1er avril 2018, les entreprises à donner un contrat permanent aux mêmes conditions à tout travailleur en CDD depuis au moins 5 ans dans son entreprise, ce qui est le cas de la quasi-totalité des enseignants.

En réponse, le Syndicat des Employés de l’Institut (SEI, affilié au syndicat Tozen de la fédération Rengo, la plus grosse fédération syndicale du Japon) a mené plusieurs actions, y compris des grèves, pourtant exceptionnelles dans le contexte japonais.

La réaction de la direction a été entre autres de mettre en concurrence des employés avec divers contrats pour entraver les actions de solidarité en donnant les cours des employés syndiqués à de nouveaux employés ; de licencier plusieurs employés certains avec des décennies d’ancienneté ; de menacer de licenciement les employés qui ne signeraient pas les nouveaux contrats avant la date d’entrée en vigueur de la loi sur les 5 ans.

Le public de l’Institut, constitué de personnes qui aiment la France et le français, a répondu favorablement aux actions du SEI et plusieurs actions de soutien des élèves à leurs professeurs ont été menées (lettres à la direction de l’IFJ, pétitions). Malgré cela, l’IJF continue ses attaques contre ses employés.

L’IFJ prépare depuis plusieurs années une telle politique de contournement de la loi sur les 5 ans. En réaction à cette politique, 3 employés de l’IFJ ont déposé une plainte le lundi 2 juillet 2018 auprès de la justice japonaise pour exiger que l’IFJ cesse de contourner la loi et applique la législation japonaise à laquelle sont soumis les contrats de ses employés, et non les directives du gouvernement français qui semble croire qu’il fait la loi au Japon comme en France. À cette occasion, une conférence de presse a été organisée le lundi 2 juillet à 16h30 par Tozen, le SEI et Rengo dans les locaux du Ministère du Travail, de la Santé et de la Protection sociale, pour expliquer les raisons de cette plainte.

「ルール無視した賃下げ」 仏語講師が政府機関を提訴 東京地裁