Shane Workers Union Protest at Shane HQ

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!”   

By: Veronika Danovich (member of Tozen Union)

Tozen Daigaku Sexual Harassment 東ゼン大学 セクハラについての講義

加藤 桂子弁護士(法律)
奥貫 妃文(判例)

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.

2020年8月23日14:00〜ライブ配信 August 23rd 2020 14:00 START!

Tokyo Board of Education snubs Tozen ALTs

We don’t need to respond to you.

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.’”

Shame on Shane – Forty-one Shane workers strike for full corona pay

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.
Outraged teachers strike after Shane says corona furlough pay was a ‘loan’

Countless unresolved issues between Shane Eikaiwa and the union remain, but what we must fight now is what is right in front of us – the next pay day on August 15.















休業手当は「借金」だった? シェーン英会話講師が怒りのストライキ












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

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


Comrades of Tozen Union:  

I am Taro Yamamoto of the Reiwa Shinsen-Gumi. 


  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. 


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.  


   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. 


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. 


 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. 


 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.  



  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.   


8 July 2020 


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

Yahoo news talks to Tozen about Shane Strikes

Last week Konno Haruki sat down with members of Tozen Union and the Shane Workers Union local to discuss the recent goings on at the company.

The original article is here

Here is an English translation of the article provided by Louis Carlet:

Outraged teachers strike after Shane says corona furlough pay was a ‘loan’
by Haruki Konno, labor policy academic and leader of NPO Posse 12:01pm, Tuesday, 7 July 2020.

Countless workers struggle to make ends meet as coronavirus leads to non-renewals, dispatch agency firings, and even non-payment of the kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance. This includes eikaiwa English conversation schools, whose foreign instructors face economic hardship after losing their jobs.

Shane Corporation runs eikaiwa classrooms around the country. Some of its foreign language teachers belong to Tokyo General Union (Tozen Union). They went on strike last month.
Why did they strike? The roots of the dispute can be found in the spread of appalling work conditions stretching back to pre-covid times; to financial hardship due to a cash advance system instituted by Shane management; and to the anger felt by employees toward a company that has ignored their voices for too long. Let’s look at the details.

Setting work hours at 29.5 hours/week to skirt health insurance enrollment
You may have heard little about labor issues language teachers face. You may think they enjoy high hourly wages with proper benefits and protections. The truth is a very different story.
Tozen Union estimates that Shane employs about 800 full-time teachers. They are hired on one-year fixed-term contracts with contract non-renewal hanging permanently over their heads.
Shane sets their weekly work hours at 29.5 hours, likely a device to evade the legal obligation to enroll employees working 30 or more in the public health insurance system called Kenko Hoken.
Thus, Shane instructors must enroll on their own in the national health insurance system – Kokumin Kenko Hoken. Instructor contracts guarantee about 250,000 yen a month gross, but their take-home pay is much less, particularly if you factor in the national health insurance premium they must cough up without help from their employer.
Shane claims the interval between classes is unpaid break time, but this is a break in name only. Teachers cannot leave the school and must wait on standby in case a potential student drops in for a taiken demo lesson.
Tozen Union began to address these issues in 2012, with the formation of its Shane local chapter. The three founding members demanded an end to fixed-term employment as well as enrollment in the public Shakai Hoken health and pension insurance scheme (which includes Kenko Hoken). The union has maintained these demands to this day.
During the intervening years, there have arisen many problems with Shane’s treatment of teachers. Tozen Union says it has fought against unfair dismissals and other issues with three unfair labor practice cases in the labor commission and four court battles.
A Tozen Union member sued Shane over a non-renewal. The company had refused his application for paid leave in order to prepare for childcare leave, deeming the period absence without leave. In an upset victory for the union, Tokyo High Court overturned a lower court’s ruling as well as Shane’s dismissal of the union member.
Eikaiwa School Instructor Wins Upset Victory as Court Rejects Paid Leave Fixing, Non-Renewal

Corona Aggravates Dispute: It’s a loan, not kyugyo te-ate furlough pay
Tozen Union says Shane closed its schools between April 8 when the state of emergency was declared and May 31. This ended up escalating the labor dispute that had built up over many years.
Shane paid the monthly quarter million yen as normal for the period it had ordered workers to stay home. From the employees’ perspective, management had paid the guaranteed 100% of their wages, just like a ‘decent company.’ Shane, however, had other ideas.
Later they discovered that the 250,000 yen was not kyugyo te-ate furlough pay at all. It was an advance on future salaries for extra work to be done after the June reopening. Shane said workers would have to work to pay back the quarter million yen they had received for April. They obtained no agreement from the employees for such an advance. In effect, workers would receive not a single yen of furlough allowance.
Several times during collective bargaining, Tozen Union asked the company to explain what the April and May payments represented, but management offered no acceptable explanation. On June 29, the company presented two options in a letter to employees.
The first option addressed what was paid for April and May by stipulating that employees would pay back all that had already been paid in excess of the legal minimum kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance. (The Labor Standards Act sets that at 60% of average daily pay, but it often amounts to about 40% of ‘real’ pay.) The second option was to keep the full 100% of what had been paid but provide free make-up lessons to students in order to repay their debts. Barring such future overtime hours, their future pay might even be docked.
Possible Labor Standard Act Violations

Twenty-Three-Member Simultaneous Strike Wins Concession!
In the end, Shane provided Tozen Union no satisfactory explanation and instead unilaterally tried to force each teacher to choose from two options by July 13. Tozen Union determined that collective bargaining was going nowhere and decided to exercise their right to collective action by going on strike.
On June 27, 23 foreign instructors in Tozen Union struck. This was the largest strike by Shane instructors ever in Japan.
Tozen Union demands 100% payment of the furlough allowance; an extra fortnight of paid leave granted to instructors infected with coronavirus; and a management-union committee to discuss workplace safety during the pandemic. These come in addition to the longstanding demands to change the contract period and enroll members in Shakai Hoken.
In the past, the company managed to arrange a replacement teacher to cover for striking teachers, minimizing any potential adverse impact on classes. Some schools had to cancel lessons, however, when the 23 teachers struck. Then, 19 teachers struck on June 30, and 22 again on July 1.

Company operations have begun to see an impact.
Some previously ununionized instructors came to mistrust the company, saw the strikes, and began themselves to get involved in the union. Shane told employees to “repay the full amount if you resign before paying it all back.” (!) One worker confided to the union that, “With the way they treat me, I want to quit. But I have no money, so I can’t quit until I pay it all back. It’s like being held captive.” Dissatisfied and anxious workers flood into the union, Tozen reports.
In face of the strikes, the company has been forced to give ground. Initially, Shane asked employees to pay back the full amount. This meant they had no intention to pay even 1 yen of the kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance. But after 23 teachers struck on June 27, management softened and said workers could keep the 60% as a furlough allowance and only need repay the other 40%(as I explain above). This is clearly insufficient wage coverage, and Tozen Union is fighting for the full 100%.

Problems rack up in the eikaiwa English conversation industry
These problems are not unique to Shane in the language industry.
Tozen Union has a local chapter at Berlitz Japan (in Benesse group). In response to the government’s request to suspend operations, this language giant switched to online lessons. But student numbers fell, nonetheless, and management used this to pay the reduced 60% furlough allowance for time when no online lessons took place.
But the reason is the reduction in students, and the company should be able to find teachers other work to do. Tozen Union therefore insists Berlitz must pay 100%.
Instructors are also getting only 60% kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance at English conversation school Nova. Many teachers are treated not even as employees but rather as individual proprietors (in name only). So, this category of Nova teachers received no furlough allowance at all, putting enormous pressure on their household finances. Nova teachers are ordinarily paid 1,350 yen per 44-minute lesson. The 60% works out to just 810 yen. Barely able to make Tokyo’s minimum wage, even these employee teachers are finding it tough to get by. The General Support Union recruits Nova employees and has been striking since June for 100% payment and measures to avoid the san-mitsu three crowding conditions.

As globalization proceeds, more and more people attend language schools. You may think that foreign workers’ conditions in the language industry are better than other industries. You would be mistaken, as I explained in this piece.

We consumers must stop ignoring workers who are striking and raising their voices in order to make things better.