Japan Times staff strike over layoffs

Tozen Union and its Japan Times General Workers Union (JTGWU) chapter took strike action Wednesday as the paper threatened to lay off 39 staff, one third of the company’s workforce.

Negotiations had broken down after management failed to justify the necessity of the layoffs.

JTGWU fears the cuts will make The Japan Times unable to function as a news organization. Such irreparable damage to the 123-year-old institution would come at a time when its coverage, including that of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is more important than ever. 

These cuts follow a voluntary redundancy program in spring 2020 that significantly reduced the newspaper’s workforce. JTGWU has 16 members, representing staff from across The Japan Times. The union set a July 17 deadline and implored The Japan Times’ management to postpone the layoffs for a month to give both parties enough time to negotiate. Management refused, preferring instead to rush through the mass layoff.

Gerome Rothman, Tozen organizer and the local’s case officer, said, “We’re shocked. The Japan Times and Tozen Union have a history of excellent labor relations.

“In Japan, an employer has the responsibility to do everything in its power to avoid even one layoff. Instead, The Japan Times has chosen to violate social norms, unilaterally deciding to turn a third of the company out into the street in the middle of a pandemic.”

Chris Russell, president of JTGWU, said, “Every member of the local is dedicated to the long-term success of The Japan Times. We believe that this success is, and will continue to be, driven by the company’s talented staff. It’s a major disappointment that the company doesn’t feel the same basic commitment to its employees, particularly given the excellent COVID-19 coverage everyone has produced in the past half year.”

Jane Kitagawa, an editor and writer, said, “Union members are upset that they have been forced into this position. They think the company has made a terrible decision to implement layoffs that are not in the best interests of the company, its readership or its staff.”

Media Contact:
Gerome Rothman
Tozen Union
Japan Times General Workers Union case officer
tozen.rothman@gmail.com

山本太郎から東ゼン労働組合への手紙 Letter from Yamamoto Taro to Tozen Union

 東ゼン労働組合に集う働く仲間の皆様、れいわ新選組代表の山本太郎です。 

Comrades of Tozen Union:  

I am Taro Yamamoto of the Reiwa Shinsen-Gumi. 

 皆様には、日頃から熱いご支援を頂いています。この場をお借りしまして心から感謝と御礼を申し上げます。本当にありがとうございます。 

  You have given our political party so much passionate support on a near daily basis. Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation. Thank you. 

 みなさまの結成10周年の記念大会、折からの新型コロナの影響で延期となり、このようなオンラインの開催になったということは、未だ感染拡大が収束せず、厳しい経済状況を反映して居ると思います。本日は、皆様からせっかくのお招きを頂きましたが、党務の都合で欠席となることを心からお詫び申し上げます。 

The novel coronavirus delayed your decennial convention and forced it online, reflecting, I think, the dire economic straights we find ourselves in, with the spread of the coronavirus not yet brought under control. Thank you for inviting me today, but I must apologize that party responsibilities prevent me from attending.  

 多くの外国人語学講師など海外からの労働者のみなさまが加入する貴組合では、コロナの影響で仕事がなくなり、生活費が底をつき、家賃やローン等を支払えない労働者の救済に尽力されているとうかがっております。コロナ下の労働では「3密」回避の徹底が求められ、加えて外国人労働者の場合には、日本の休業手当の制度や有給、傷病手当金などの制度について労働者のわかる母国語での情報発信が求められます。 

   Tozen Union has many foreign language teachers and workers from overseas. I understand that you have done everything possible to help those who have lost their jobs to corona, are struggling to make ends meet, and cannot afford rent and loan payments. Workers in the age of corona must completely avoid sanmitsu – the three types of congestive environments: close contact, crowds, and poorly ventilated spaces. Foreign workers must have proper information on Japan’s kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance system, paid leave, and shobyo te-ate sick leave support, all provided in their native languages. 

ある民間会社の調査で外国人を対象に新型コロナウイルスの影響を聞いたところ、必要とする情報として、「行政からの支援」が最多で42%、「健康やコロナウイルス」が32%でした。どの支援を利用できるのかが最大の関心事であるとわかります。様々な支援制度が乱立し、応募要件が複雑な中、法制度上日本での生活にさまざまな制約が課されている人々が、速やかに支援につながるためには、貴組合のような労働組合の存在がきわめて重要であると思います。 

With the impact of the novel coronavirus, 42% of foreigners said they need explanations of “government aid programs” more than any other information, according to a poll by a private company. This topped information on health and the coronavirus, cited by 32% of respondents. Aid programs abound; eligibility requirements are labyrinthian; but your union moves quickly to provide support those who encounter countless legal restrictions on their lives in Japan. The existence of your union is extremely important. 

 そして、労働環境や処遇改善をするためには、最低賃金を引き上げる必要があります。全国一律!最低時給1500円を政府が補償することは、安定雇用のための経済政策として必ず実現しなければならないと考えています。 

 To improve working environments and conditions, we must raise the minimum wage. We must make the government set a national unified minimum hourly wage of 1,500 yen, as an economic policy to ensure job security. 

去る4月6日、私たちれいわ新選組は、国政政党として、政府に対して、「労働者への賃金補填、社会保険料の免除、ローンの猶予」等の提言を行いました。 

 On April 6, national party Reiwa Shinsengumi urged the government to cover workers’ wages, waive premium payments for Shakai Hoken health and pension, and to provide a moratorium on loan payments.  

 微力ではございますが、東ゼン労働組合の仲間の皆様とともに、社会に広がりのある運動をつくる所存です。「引き続きのご指導ご教示を何卒宜しくお願い致します。 

結びに、東ゼン労働組合の加盟者の皆様のご多幸とご健勝と更なるご発展を心から祈念し、れいわ新選組代表、山本太郎からの連帯のメッセージと致します。 

  Although we have little political power, we are building a growing movement with all our comrades at Tozen Union. Please continue to share with us your wisdom and guidance. I, Taro Yamamoto, leader of Reiwa Shinsengumi, leave you with a heartfelt message of solidarity, wishing all Tozen Union members further success, health and happiness.   

                           2020年7月8日

8 July 2020 

                            れいわ新選組 

Reiwa Shinsengumi 

                            代表 山本 太郎 

Leader Taro Yamamoto 

シェーン英会話の労働紛争に関する記事 Articles on Labour Dispute with Shane English School

先日東ゼン労組シェーン支部が行った大規模ストライキや、労働紛争について、Shingetsu News AgencyとYahooニュースで取り上げられました。

English article by Shingetsu News Agency

https://news.yahoo.co.jp/byline/konnoharuki/20200707-00187003/
Yahooニュースによる日本語の記事

Shane Workers Union’s recent strikes

You might have thought the Shane Workers Union (SWU) had gone quiet, or weren’t doing much over the lockdown, but the members were all quite active. Meetings went from a monthly thing to an almost weekly activity, and the fire in the members hearts was burning and growing.

The members were angry at Shane’s lack of decent guidance during the pandemic and angry at management’s refusal of collective bargaining(CB). The anger increased further when – after two months of refusal – management eventually met the union for CB on 15th June 2020, and offered little in the way of negotiation. The company even claimed that they didn’t even know the legal classification of the pay they gave us during the April and May lockdown.

Shane had decided that during the lockdown they would pay the workers 100% of their salary (woohoo!) as an advance (boo!) on future work. This goes against Article 17 of the Labour Standards Act, “Pay shall not be made for advanced work” and against the government’s appeals to employers to pay workers a full furlough. The government is providing financial assistance to employers to cover the costs of furloughing employees.

As the lockdown ended, the company stated that workers would have to make up 30+ days of work for free. To do this, the company unilaterally changed the working calendar with no negotiation with, or consent from, the workers, changing both training days and paid leave days to working days. This meant most workers would lose most of their holidays.

Shane also decided that the company would reclaim wages from the counselors (receptionists), horrifying them and teachers.  The union did what we could to help counselors and want to do more.

As the new working days that were once training days and holidays approached, workers became agitated and angry at the exploitation.
The week leading up to one of the first new working days Saturday, June 27th was filled with discussion and talks of how teachers could stop their work being exploited, and ourthe main response was “withhold your labour.”
This must have hit a certain spot with people, as on Thursday 25th June, 9 people took strike action, with 3 people joining the union through the strike.

These new members and older ones continued to respond to other workers’ frustrations at the company’s changes to the work calendar, by suggesting that they also take action.

The company sent out an “Agreement on Planned Paid Leave Addendum” for workplace representatives to sign on Friday 26th June. This addendum stated that the company would be able to change the paid leave schedule with 7 days notice, and that the company and employees would have to comply with the changes.
It meant that the company wanted the ability to change annual paid leave with no negotiation. Teachers were furious. 

All day Friday, Orren (President of the SWU) and Mizuho (Case Officer for the SWU) received strike proposals, some from old members and some from new recruits.
This culminated in an action on Saturday 27th June 2020 with 23 people striking across the company, including 11 people joining the union through strike action.

On Monday 29th June 2020, the company sent out a message with two options from which each teacher must choose. This circumvented any negotiation with the union:

  1. Go back to the old calendar, but pay back over 40% of your wages, and count the previous pay as a furlough.
  2. Continue with the new calendar, and keep 100% of what has already been paid, however ½ of the make-up days would be cut.

The SWU’s #1 strike demand at the moment is that the company furlough its workers during the lockdown at 100% with no obligation to make up the days.
So we cannot accept either of these offers, and the fight will continue.

In the letter containing the 2 proposed options, the company acknowledges Article 17 and Article 26 of the Labour Standards Act. They mention that Article 17 states that salary cannot be paid in advance, but say nothing else about it. Despite this being the action that Shane took.

Shane misrepresents Article 26 and makes it sound like they would have had to pay only 60% as a furlough, not that they would have had to pay at least 60%. They also claimed that paying 60% might have caused “severe financial difficulties” for staff, never letting slip that 60% is the minimum, or that the government offered Payroll Protection Program assistance to companies that furloughed their employees.

On Tuesday 30th of June, we managed another large strike action of 19 people, with one teacher joining the union through strike action. More schools closed for the day.

Today, on Wednesday 1st of July, we had our 2nd largest strike yet, with 22 people striking, 4 of which joined through striking. Once again, the company was unable to cover all of the strikers.

These large strike actions have doubled the size of the union, and all new members seem very motivated about how they can help the union going forwards to realise the demands.

The hard work of everyone over the past week has been incredible to see. It amazes what people can do when they unite for a cause.

The Shane Workers Union is not anti-company. We are not anti-work. We love our work. We just want to make this a workplace that everyone can be proud of. We look forward to negotiating with the company in the future.

幼児教育の「ピアソン」、労働組合、労働委員会、責任からの逃亡

幼児教育(0~9歳)サービスを提供している株式会社ピアソン中村博一校長は、昨年12月に2か月後に二つの学校を閉校することを、保護者と講師宛てに突然かつ一方的に発表した。それに伴い、全講師が雇用を打ち切られることとなった。

 同社は、茨城県つくば市で「つくば・インターナショナル・ナーサリー・スクール」および、東京都世田谷区で「羽根木インターナショナルプリスクール」の2校を運営していたものの、2020年2月16日、どちらも発表通りに閉校した。

 東ゼン労組のシュミーラー組合員は、「憤りを感じる」と言いながら解雇撤回に向けて闘っている。「学校において何か問題が起きていたなんて初耳だった。順調な状況が続き、突然これ!」

 東ゼン労組は、株式会社ピアソンに対して、シュミーラー組合員への解雇撤回を目的に、団体交渉を申し入れた。しかし、中村博一校長は、同申し入れ、数回にわたるファックス、メール、電話のいずれも無視し続けた。団交申し入れを拒否する行為は、憲法と労働組合法に定められている講師の権利の侵害に当たる。

 打つ手の無くなった組合側は、東京都労働委員会に団交拒否問題として救済を申し立てた。しかし、ピアソン株式会社は、労働委員会からの連絡さえも拒否した。中村校長は、従業員のみならず、行政機関からも逃げ通している姿勢である。

 それだけでなく、新型コロナウイルス感染症による影響もあり、「まさにゴミのように使い捨てられましたね。コロナ禍中に再就職は極めて難しい。」とシュミーラー組合員は話す。

 組合側は、ピアソン株式会社は既に倒産したと認識していたが、そうではなかった。シュミーラー組合員は、解雇されてから2か月以上経った時点の2020年4月17日に、つくば・インターナショナル・ナーサリー・スクールが、新しいウェブサイトを立ち上げ、2020年4月27日の放課後講習を発表した。禍中としても運営が順調であることが窺える。

 会社が出頭を拒否している労働委員会の件に関しては、2020年10月頃命令が出ることとなる。幼児教育を提供しているにも関わらず、上記のような「ブラック企業」と言わざるを得ない会社である。東ゼン労組は、シュミーラー組合員の復職、バックペイ支払いを実現するまで闘い、この恐ろしい禍中においても社会通念を逸脱しているピアソン株式会社の責任を追及する。

 ご支援とご協力のほど宜しくお願いします。

  • 東ゼン労組の主任オルグ ジェローム・ロスマン

Shane Corporation and Covid 19

In March, April and May 2020, Shane Corp. took the decision to close schools in response to the novel coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency in Japan.

Under Japanese law and in line with social norms, companies across the country have been furloughing their employees and paying an allowance (kyugyou teate), or keeping their employees busy by implementing work from home policies.

Shane Corp. decided on an entirely different approach, and has not furloughed workers or had them work from home. Instead, Shane Corp. have paid an advance, and expects the workers to either pay back the wages received, or work unpaid overtime. In effect, Shane staff were paid nothing for the closures. The company took a position to change working hours and designated holidays without the consent of the workers. This unilateral imposition is most probably illegal.

The number of members in the Shane Workers Union continues to surge as many staff have finally lost patience, and are increasingly frustrated at what they see as poor treatment.

It is the position of SWU that Shane Corp. pay 100% furlough allowance for the school closures, without any obligation to pay back or work back the money. We are prepared to volunteer to work overtime as long as it’s paid as overtime.

We hope to negotiate a sensible outcome that is fair to the staff and allows the customers to make up the lessons they missed.

Corona related articles コロナ関連の記事

Preschool Proprietor Pearson KK flees union, labor commission, and accountability

Preschool* Proprietor Pearson KK flees union, labor commission, and accountability

*Hanegi International Pre-School and Tsukuba International Nursery School

 [Tokyo, June 12, 2020] Last December, Principal Hirokazu Nakamura informed parents and teachers that Hanegi International Pre-School (in Shimokitazawa) would close on February 16, 2020. In other words, teachers’ jobs would be gone in two months. 

“I was gobsmacked,” says Adam S, a Tozen Union member fighting to get his job back. “I had no idea the school was having any problems. Things were just humming along, and then suddenly this!”

Tozen Union sought collective bargaining (CB) with Pearson KK, the company that owns Hanegi International Pre-School and runs Tsukuba International Nursury School.  Nakamura ignored countless union faxes, emails, and phone calls trying to set up the CB session to negotiate Adam’s return. Pearson’s refusal violates the teachers’ and the union’s constitutional rights.

When Tozen sued Pearson in the Tokyo Labor Commission, the company wouldn’t take the labor commission’s phone calls. Nakamura refuses to face his employees and even his government. 

Then, the Covid-19 crisis arrived. “They turned us out into the street like garbage,” Adam added. “Used us and threw us out into this horrible pandemic. There’s no work.”

Maybe the company simply disappeared? Nope. Tsukuba International Nursery School rolled out a new website on April 17 and announced a new after-school program for their students on April 27. Pearson appears to be doing brisk business.

Without a defendant, the labor commission will issue a ruling in October 2020. Tozen Union will not give up the fight to bring burakku kigyo Pearson KK to the table, pay Adam S. his back wages, and take responsibility for its anti-social behavior during this terrible pandemic.

Tozen Union Senior Organizer Gerome Rothman 

浸透しきれていない支援制度と言葉の壁

https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASN5K6T20N5GOIPE01H.html

 全国すべての人に配るとされている一律10万円給付が受けられるのか、中小企業や個人事業主の売り上げ減を補う「持続化給付金」の手続きを知りたい、といった問い合わせもあり、支援制度が伝わっていないと感じる。「日本人でも熟知している人は少ない。ましてや外国人は言葉の壁などもある」周囲にサポートできる人がいなければ、こうした制度にたどり着くことも難しい。奥貫さんは「多言語対応の労働相談など、何かしらの手段はある。1人で悩まず、ぜひどこかにつながってほしい」と呼びかける。(記事より)

朝日新聞で東ゼン労組の執行委員長、奥貫妃文のコメントが取り上げられました。

5月24日に、国の支援制度や在留資格に関する講義も行います。ぜひ御覧ください。

 

Tozen Daigaku Japan’s Corona Aid Programs 東ゼン大学 コロナ助成金事業

2020年5月24日14:00から、国のコロナに関する助成金と、在留資格についての講義を行います。YouTubeでライブ配信します。講義の後には質問タイムも設けますので、是非ご覧ください。

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!