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。







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





給料減額「日本の労働法を無視した暴挙」、 仏政府公式「語学教室」の講師ら提訴













Tohoku University’s systemic massacre of 3,243 jobs

Exactly 50 years back, the streets of Japan boiled in revolution. The protests against the Narita airport and alleged collusion of then Prime Minister Eisako Sato with the United States in the Vietnam war brought the cities to a halt. Tear gas, water cannons and the occupation of University of Tokyo’s infamous Yasuda auditorium have been etched as vivid memories amongst people of that generation.

50 years later, the streets are silent or at least, the mainstream Japanese media projects it to be. Japan’s largest media corporations came under fire for deliberately not reporting protests and people’s opinions after the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami. Not very long after that, in 2012, the Japanese government amended the labour contract law.

The amendment in the labour contract law implied that all fixed-term employees can give themselves a permanent status if they have been employed for over five years. The lawmakers have claimed that it is for enhancement of job security and were challenging the rising fixed-term employees at various institutions. As of 2015, Tohoku University has 5,771 irregular employees as opposed to 4,686 regular employees. Yet, institutions have found a way to exploit the loophole: To not renew a fixed-term employee beyond five years.

Since the implementation of the law starting from April 01, 2013, five years have been completed on March 31, 2018. This implies that institutions can officially decline to renew any fixed term contracts and prevent the irregular employees from becoming regular. Tohoku University, like many others in the country, has decided to do so.

With very little reporting about the same in the mainstream English media apart from the exception of Hifumi Okunuki’s op-ed article in ‘The Japan Times’ in 2016, the issue remains unclear and unknown, to the student community and the outsiders. The regular protests by Tohoku University Kumiai on the Katahira campus have attracted very little attention from the students. “We really want the students to know about it,” said one of the Kumiai members to the Sentinel who has decided to remain anonymous.

Protests against the administrative decision near Kawauchi station

The university has already initiated the process of terminating the contracts of the fixed-term employees by not renewing them. It has substituted them with new employees who may face the same fate 5 years from now. “The university says that it doesn’t have any money to guarantee our employment in the future but they have been constructing buildings after buildings and a lot of them have also been for the sheer symbolism of reconstruction and revival post-2011,” the Kumiai member said. “The lawyer representing the university is from Tokyo. Appointing someone all the way from Tokyo costs a lot of money,” the member added.

Last year, the university put in place an examination for the irregular employees, some of whom who have worked for nearly a decade at the university. The set terms were clear: The ones who fail to clear it, would be terminated immediately. In a somewhat expected move, only 30% of the test-takers cleared the examination. “Everyone from the Ryugakuseika department cleared the test which could probably be reasoned for their ability to communicate in English,” said the Kumiai member.

This year also saw the shift in leadership as President Hideo Ohno stepped into the shoes of presidency, succeeding President Susumu Satomi. “There has been no change due to President Ohno stepping in. It is all the same,” the Kumiai member said. “He said he requires time for studying the topic deeply,” the member added. President Ohno replied the same when ‘The Sentinel’ asked him about this issue in an interview back in January 2017, few weeks after he was announced as the President-elect. ‘The Sentinel’ also tried asking this to President Satomi in an interview but the secreteriat refused to give us permission to ask him anything about the issue.

It is also surprising to note that most of these 3,243 employees are female employees. Since most of them have a family to take care of and the household expense is majorly supported by the husband’s income, they choose to take an irregular job. With Prof. Noriko Osumi stepping in as the new Vice President for Public Relations and Promotion of Diversity, it is expected that the gender imbalance will be seen with greater importance in administrative decisions. She is the first female professor at the School of Medicine and is also the Director of TUMUG (Tohoku University Centre for Gender Equality Promotion). Yet, the Kumiai member thinks otherwise. “She has focussed only on researchers and regular workers. She has not addressed any of the gender issues that the 3,243 employees who are on the brink of losing their jobs are facing.”

The fine prints and implications of this new law which was supposed to guarantee more jobs bring in new details. “After completion of 5 years, the fired employee can re-join the institution after a break of 6 months for another 5 years. So, some of the employees who left the university in March this year may be able to re-join in October. This is absolutely incomprehensible. I cannot do without 6 months’ pay,” said the Kumiai member. Questions like what would happen if the university hires new employees in the period between April and October remain ambiguous and no clear answers were found.

Like Tohoku University, Hokkaido  University and Osaka University are also amongst other centres for higher education who have decided to axe the jobs. On the other hand, the negotiations between the labour union at University of Tokyo and the administration has been somewhat successful and irregular employees are still holding on to their jobs. The union at Tohoku University is always in constant discussion with administration about important issues but the number of members have fallen over the years. “Many are not concerned unless their jobs are affected,” the Kumiai member said.

A part of this problem can also be traced back to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s decision in 2003 to turn all Japanese national universities into institutions with corporate status or, ‘national university corporation’, as they are now known as. This has pressured the universities to look out for their own funds. With MEXT reducing its subsidies to the national universities by 1% each year, the universities have responded by hiring more irregular staff and axing clerical jobs. United Kingdom adopted similar idea back in 1988 under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher but responses from citizens have been mixed.

Back in July 1974, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in the Toshiba Yanagi-cho Factory case where seven plaintiffs worked on revolving 2 month-contracts and one of them was renewed 23 times. The Supreme Court upheld it as jotai-setsu (Legal principle of abuse of the right to dismiss applies if circumstances suggest that employment is in effect permanent, even if written contract indicates a fixed term).

The court case between Tohoku University and the 3,243 workers shall witness its first hearing on August 22 this year. The workers are represented by a voluntary lawyer from Sendai city. “Well, the court case will take a long time,” the Kumiai member said.

Article 02 of Japanese Labour Standards Act says, “Working conditions should be determined by the workers and employers on an equal basis.” When asked if the goal of attaining this equality near, the Kumiai member responded, “There is a long way to go.”

For updates about the court case, visit the website of Tohoku University Kumiai :

The Sentinel shall also publish the official statement from the university once it receives. 

As reported by The Sentinel Bureau.

Photos Courtsey : Tohoku University Kumiai Facebook Page (Public)

References :

  1. No legal cure-all for fixed-term job insecurity (April 24, 2012):
  2. Labour Standards Act :
  3. ‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs :
  4. 1968 : The year Japan truly raised its voice :
  5. Japan’s universities struggling under corporate status :
  6. Tohoku University Kumiai :
    Original Link  to this article.