On Sunday May 24 at 2pm, we are hosting our next Tozen Daigaku. In this edition, we will go over Japan’s corona aid and visa programs, with a Q&A following the talk. Check it out on YouTube livestream!
Against the backdrop of this nightmarish pandemic, many workers in nonessential industries face an awful dilemma – commute to work, and risk their own and the public health, or stay at home with no or far less income. As a union, we must call for the resolution of both crises, protecting health and income.
On Friday, May 1, 2020, beginning 2pm, we will hold the world’s first virtual street protest. Tozen Union will fight for two pillars for workers – corona containment and income security. Don’t ask workers to stay at home without ensuring they can pay rent and other bills. We must have both and have them now.
What the heck is a “virtual street protest”? At ordinary street protests, we raise the Tozen Union flag, wear armbands, pass out a leaflet with demands, make speeches and a series of shprehicall chants. We state our demands to the public and call out management. Tozen Union Virtual Mayday will do all that over the teleconferencing platform Zoom.
Tozen Union Virtual May Day’s overall theme is that governments and employers must take care of workers, meaning fully pay those in non-essential industries to stay or work at home and guarantee extra hazard pay to heroic essential workers on the frontlines of the war against the virus.
Keep the following labor law principles in mind regarding work furloughs ordered by your employer.
1. If your boss orders you to stay home without a legitimate, unavoidable reason, then in principle she must pay your full wages.
2. Article 26 of the Labor Standards Act stipulates that “In the event of an absence from work for reasons attributable to the employer, the employer shall pay an allowance (kyugo te-ate) equal to at least 60% of the worker’s average wage to each worker concerned during the period of absence from work.” If you tell your boss you don’t feel well and she orders you to take off, then you can claim the 60%. If you teach language and your school orders you to stay home as the virus reduces student numbers, you could claim the kyugo te-ate.
You are ineligible, however, if you choose to take time off. Such absence would be treated as ordinary sick days, unpaid unless stipulated in your contract or shugyo kisoku work rules. The employer bears no responsibility if the local government orders residents to stay home from work or in the event of a natural disaster.
3. You can take ordinary annual paid leave (nenji yukyu kyuka) if ineligible for the kyugo te-ate. If you are enrolled in the Shakai Hoken health and pension scheme, you can get an accident/sickness allowance (shobyo te-ate kin) beginning your fourth day off. That allowance is equivalent to two-thirds of your average salary.③ 休業手当が出ない場合、有給休暇を取得することができます。また、社会保険（健康保険）に加入していれば、4日以降休みが続けば、傷病手当金（平均標準報酬日額の3分の2）の対象になる可能性があります。
4. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 29 announced an aid program for parents who lose wages due to corona-related school closings. Whether the aid will pass through corporations or go directly to workers remains unclear. I will update you as soon we get more information.
5. It’s a bit trickier for those working on gyomu itaku services provider contracts and for those working on zero-hour contracts (with no monthly guarantee). If you work on gyomu itaku, then you have no protections under labor law except union rights. On zero-hour contracts, though, you can claim the above kyugyo te-ate if your schedule is pretty much set or determined in advance. If you have questions, let’s have a consultation.
SNA (Tokyo) — May Day came into this world on May 1, 1886, with a general strike to win “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” Three days later, workers gathered in Haymarket Square, Chicago, and clashed with cops sent in to shut them down. At least four civilians and seven officers died. Four workers were later sentenced to death for conspiracy to riot, despite not a shred of evidence. May Day spread beyond the borders of the United States to Europe and elsewhere. Today, we see the eight-hour workday as a social norm, albeit observed more in the breech. But workers shed blood and tears to bequeath this right to us. We should devote one day a year to recognizing those heroes’ achievement and sacrifice.
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[2020.4.12] Assistant language teachers (ALTs) in Sagamihara City will work from home beginning Monday 13th April rather than Tuesday 14th, dispatcher Interac KK told Tozen Union.
The ALT dispatch giant had planned to send Tozen members to school this week, even though the city had already suspended classes. The union demanded its members work from home instead, to help fight the virus and slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
During 11th hour virtual negotiations, Interac management agreed to have the teachers work from home beginning Tuesday, after commuting to the workplace one time only on Monday.
The union welcomed the concession but insisted the ALTs work from home on Monday too. “We are concerned not just for the health and safety of our members, but also anyone they could come into contact during the commute,” said Tozen Senior Organizer Gerome Rothman. Interac agreed to talk to Sagamihara about the demand and later told the school board the ALTs will stay at home.
“We appreciate Interac management’s attention to the health and safety of its employees,” Rothman said. Tozen Union demands all employers help fight the virus by paying employees full salary to work from home.
Sagamihara City is a 40-minute train ride from Shinjuku in central Tokyo. To join our union and the fight-the-virus campaign, contact Case Officer Gerome Rothman at email@example.com.
SNA (Tokyo) — Last Friday, the Covid-19 global pandemic passed the horrifying milestone of one million infections and 50,000 fatalities worldwide. There have, as of this writing, been 4,592 confirmed cases and 106 deaths in Japan. Graphs of new cases and deaths trace the left half of steep parabolas as the world’s nations fail to flatten the curve. The global catastrophe and its grim toll traps workers between the closing jaws of infection risk and dire economic straits. As US commentator Krystal Ball noted, “the working class has been shoved into the front lines of this crisis.”