The fight against union busting at the Berlitz-ELS Sapporo Language Centre continues, with two demonstrations held recently in Sapporo and Tokyo.
In Sapporo, union members leafletted in front of the Berlitz-ELS LC on March 12. The union continues to receive strong support, with a new member joining the original Four, and students as well as members of the local Sapporo Rentai union helping to hand out flyers. The public is obviously reading the flyers, as we have received phone calls to the office in Tokyo from students concerned about the situation.
In Tokyo, union members gathered in front of the ELS school in Shinjuku, and distributed about 300 leaflets. Even without a loudspeaker, the colourful placards and energetic chanting of the protestors convinced the passers-by that something was definitely amiss with the company on the 7th floor. More than half the participants were from Berlitz and Simul, who, along with ELS, are Benesse group companies.
Union members at the Berlitz-ELS Sapporo LC are fighting unfair dismissals and union-busting at ELS Japan. ELS denies that the dismissals targeted union members, but cannot explain why out of 17 teachers, only the four union members were fired, less than two months after their first collective bargaining to boot. Unsubstantiated claims of “poor performance” don’t stand up against years of experience, good evaluations, and petitions from students to bring these teachers back to work.
The real reason may lie in changes to contracts introduced unilaterally this April, as teachers said good-bye to benefits such as paid national holidays and prep time for kids’s lessons.
This unfair labour practice is going on literally under the names of Berlitz and Benesse, which adorn the entrance to the school in Sapporo. ELS took over the Sapporo LC in 2006, but retained the Berlitz operation in a “double-branding” agreement with Berlitz Japan.