Preschool operator Pearson KK’s refusal to meet Tozen Union for collective bargaining (CB) violates Article 7.2 of Japan’s Trade Union Act, the Tokyo Labor Commission ruled Wednesday.
Last December, Principal Hirokazu Nakamura informed parents and teachers that Hanegi International Pre-School (in Shimokitazawa) would close on February 16, 2020. This meant teachers’ jobs would be gone in two months.
Nakamura ignored countless union faxes, emails, and phone calls trying to set up a CB session to save a union member’s job. Pearson’s refusal violates the teachers’ and the union’s rights under Article 28 of the Constitution
Tozen sued Pearson in the Tokyo Labor Commission, but the company ignored the commission’s calls. Nakamura refuses to face his employees and even his government. Pearson never turned up to a hearing or filed a piece of paper in their defense.
The Covid-19 pandemic worsened the impact of Hanegi’s collapse. “They put us out into the street like garbage,” Adam S, one of the fired teachers said. “Used us and threw us out into this horrible pandemic. There’s no work.”
Meanwhile, the company still runs a brisk business as if nothinghappened. Tsukuba International Nursery School rolled out a new website on April 17and announced a new after-school program for their students on April 27.
Tozen Union will immediately issue a renewed demand for CB. We will not give up the fight to bringPearson KK to the table, pay Adam S. his back wages, and take responsibility for its anti-social behavior during this crisis.
When Shane Corporation teachers checked their payslips on Tuesday September 15, 2020, they noticed a new category listed as “Repayment.” Teachers at the language school had negotiated to stop the company from taking this dreadful action. In July, the school informed them of a surprise loan that had been imposed on them during Japan’s lockdown months, initially understood as salary. Since then, the company has made no effort to negotiate in good faith.
On August 28, newly elected teacher representatives met with Principal Alex Cox and Director Ian Holden. According to the minutes, “the average monthly deduction will be around 35,000 yen over 8 months” for teachers who were pushed into option 1 who could keep their paid leave but are required to pay back the salary that was paid to them during lockdown. Some teachers report being deducted upwards of 40,000 yen. Many teachers have expressed concern over illegal deductions made without their consent. They are also worried about the continued financial hardship they face with lower pay that will continue for 7 more paychecks.
Teachers pushed into option 2 were permitted to keep the salary that was paid to them; however they have lost most of their paid leave and were told to work 6-day weeks to make up the days they owe for when the company was under lockdown. Certain district managers have told option 2 teachers that if they do not finish making up the extra days by March 31, 2021, then they will also be deducted for the remainder of this odious debt. Some teachers feel this is a trap and that no matter what option they choose; they will still get their wages docked. Other teachers report that they make themselves available for 6-day weeks but are still given no extra work and are told that there are no lessons to make up in certain districts. They worry that even though they make an effort to comply with what the company dictates; they will still get deducted.
The two “options” as the company called it, were not options at all. Teachers were forced to choose one or the other and if they refused to choose, they were forced onto option 1. Japanese staff were given no options, were deducted before teachers were and will be docked for 6 more paychecks. Initially, teachers were told that they would be deducted 50% from their paychecks for two consecutive months which forced many panicked and stressed teachers to choose option 2 due to the fear of suddenly not being able to pay their bills and other necessary expenses. However, the company later decided the “repayments” would be divided between 8 paychecks. This decision came without sufficient notice as the deadline the company set to decide on the options they forced upon teachers had passed.
Some option 2 teachers have requested to be reclassified to option 1 due to this new information, but the company refused, citing the deadline. Option 2 teachers are now forced to work during holidays mandated in their contracts, which the company says does not count towards the days owed. Shane offers no additional pay. According to Shane’s General Directives and Guidelines for Teachers section 5.1; “Teachers will earn a daily bonus of ¥15,000 for voluntarily working on a non-scheduled day of work” The company chooses to ignore these rules for option 2 teachers.
Following the deduction, on Wednesday September 16, 22 teachers struck in response to the company’s actions. Teachers gathered in front of Shane schools in the Chiba and Saitama districts to hand out flyers to passersby and inform them about the treatment of teachers. “We did not consent to this” was written on one side of the flyers, while the other side provided public access articles and information detailing Shane’s actions regarding corona pay and taking away paid leave.
Union membership continues to increase with both Japanese and foreign staff. The union will not give up in their efforts to negotiate despite the company trying to delay and refusing any real discussion of union demands. We want to come to some kind of an agreement with management before escalating to further legal action. Shane needs to take these demands seriously and realize what they are doing is not ok by any legal or moral standards.
Tozen Union Atty Keiko Kato and President Hifumi Okunuki will lecture on power harassment law and case law for our September Tozen Daigaku (YouTube livestream). We’ll take questions after the lecture, so ask us in the comments section. Check details below.
In June, the paper had announced its intention to lay off 39 staffers, one third of the company’s workforce. This prompted a flurry of negotiations with Tozen Union, partnering with JT Labor Union, which represents 51 Japan Times regular staffers and is a member of Shimbun Roren (Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions).
Negotiations broke down and Tozen members went on strike on July 22. The unions and management eventually agreed on a package that included voluntary retirement and secondments within the News2U family of group companies.
“We consider this a victory for Tozen and JT Labor Union, though a qualified one”, said Chris Russell, president of Japan Times General Workers Union. “We are mindful of the many colleagues we are losing to the voluntary retirement program, especially Shimbun Roren members. The union will put this episode behind us and continue to fight for the survival and renewal of The Japan Times.”
On the morning of Friday August 21st a demonstration was held at Shane Corporation Kanda head office where most of management works. Thirty-three members of the Tozen Union gathered in front of the Shane building and protested Shane’s docking of wages and taking away holidays.
During the government lockdown, Shane told employees to stay home and promised to pay 100% of their salary. Memos sent to staff contained lofty rhetoric, such as, “Your integral importance in day to day operations at Shane cannot be overstated and we want to financially protect you during this very testing and challenging time.”
Weeks after the company resumed operations new memos were sent stating that most holidays would be taken away, and employees would have to provide free labor, working 6 days a week to “make up” for the days “missed” during the lockdown. Neither staff nor the union was consulted. Staffers were also told that the already paid salary was now a surprise loan to be paid back should they choose not to provide free labor.
Recently, Shane Workers Union membership tripled in size. Members include both foreign and Japanese staff. The company plans to dock instructor wages starting with the September paycheck. Salary deductions for Japanese staff have already begun. Twenty-nine teachers went on strike in solidarity.
At the protest, Shane employees were joined by members of allied unions: Posse, General Support Union, and other Tozen Union local chapters such as Oberlin Local, Begunto (Berlitz) and ALT local. Shane Corp. continues to refuse to hold in-person collective bargaining with the union. We hope to change this quickly and reach an agreement on union demands with Shane management.
The members of Shane Workers Union and many of the staff employees never consented to giving up their holidays, providing free labor or taking out any loans. Orren Frankham, executive president of the Shane Workers Union, shouted through a megaphone at the protest: “You are taking our holidays; you are affecting the workers; you are making it harder for everybody! We call on you to negotiate with us! Negotiate with us! We have called on you multiple times for CB and you have ignored us!”
Tozen Union Atty Keiko Kato and President Hifumi Okunuki will lecture on sexual harassment law and case law for our August Tozen Daigaku (YouTube livestream). We’ll take questions after the lecture, so ask us in the comments section. Check details below.
The Tokyo Board of Education told Tozen Union they will not meet its ALT union for collective bargaining (CB). They also refused to respond in writing to the union’s request to negotiate.
Tozen Union previously enjoyed productive relationship with the school board, including talks last year. Today, the union dropped by on routine business, filing a request for bargaining and informing management of two new union members.
Two board representatives said they wouldn’t take the document because a change in the law had stripped direct-hire ALTs of their trade union rights. They refused even to put their refusal in writing and tried to force the union to take the documents back.
“We knew about changes in the law but also understood that boards of education across the country still negotiate and sign agreements with labor unions,” said ALT organizer Gerome Rothman. “We were surprised a school board would hide behind an unconstitutional law and treat their employees like strangers.”
The union refused to take the documents back and demanded an official written response by 5pm, next Thursday August 6.
“Our union has demands to protect the safety of ALTs working at schools during this pandemic. Board officials interrupted me when I explained the demands, saying ‘we don’t have to talk to you.’”
Few corporations paid full kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance during the emergency shutdown. Shane Eikaiwa (Shane Corp.), however, paid its teachers the full allowance during April and May. At first glance, the company apparently showed respect to its workers, a company anybody would be proud to work at.
But this pretty picture has turned ugly, with management deducting wages without workers’ consent and trying to get them to work overtime for free.
The number of members of the Tozen Union Shane Workers Union has tripled from just 20 a month ago on June 24, to 71 today. Today, 41 members walked out, the biggest strike in the history of Tozen Union’s Shane chapter and even in the history of Tozen Union.
We heard of many workplace problems that school counselors faced, but they were reluctant to stand up, organize and fight back. But counselors have joined the union and have now struck. Being the first to step forward is tough, yet they refused to bow to the pressure and took the bold and daring step of standing up.
Shane Eikaiwa presented instructors with two options in late June.
Option 1 was to maintain the same work schedule they had before the state of emergency declaration with no need to provide make-up classes on their days off. But they would get about half their upcoming pay deducted.
Option 2 was to keep all the wages they received during the closure, but then be required to do make-up classes for free to offset those wages. In effect, this means that the money paid during closure was an advance payment for future work.
Option 1 violates a principle in Article 24 that wages must be paid in full and cannot be deducted without the employee’s agreement; and Option 2 violates Article 17 of the Labor Standards Act, which stipulates Employers cannot pay an advance as a loan on condition that those wages will be offset by future labor.
Astonishingly, Shane Eikaiwa told teachers that if they refused to choose either option, they would automatically get stuck with Option 1. Employees end up being strong-armed into choosing one of these two options.
The members of Tozen Union’s Shane local rejected both options. Many members reran employee rep elections at their schools and told management they refuse and reject any deduction from their wages. Management continues to refuse to conclude a rodo kyoyaku collective bargaining agreement over corona wages and work schedules.
Today, school counselors and instructors – the workers at Shane Eikaiwa stood up and prosecuted a major strike.
Recently, Yahoo News ran a piece on Shane Eikaiwa by well-known journalist and commentator Haruki Konno. The article was retweeted over 700 times, including by Shane students as well as those who want to take action to change things for instructors.