違法の指摘にたいし「報復」か? シェーン英会話学校が講師を解雇 Shane Dismisses Leading Labour Union Organisers

English is after Japanese.
英文は日本語の下。
元々 Yahoo News掲載.
English translation originally posted on Shingetsu News Agency.

今年7月、「シェーン英会話」(株式会社シェーン・コーポレーション、以下シェーン)に勤める英会話講師らが、コロナ禍の休業手当を会社に「返還」する義務を課せられ、事実上、違法な「前借金」を負わされていることを紹介した。

参考: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

 その後も、シェーンの英会話講師らが所属する労働組合・東ゼン労組は、シェーンに対し、団体交渉やストライキ・抗議行動などを積極的に実施してきた。

 こうした動きをうけて、経営側もついに重い腰を上げ、休業手当の「返還」を求めないと従業員に通知したという。これは労使交渉の前向きな成果だと思われた。

 ところが、シェーンは、同時に、休業補償等の問題で活発に交渉・行動を組織していたリーダー格の組合員らを解雇・雇い止めにしてしまったのだ。

 労組側はこれを権利行使への「報復」だと主張しているが、これはシェーンという個別企業の問題にとどまらない重大な問題だ。もし「報復」が真実であるなら、勇気を出して声を上げた労働者が、解雇・雇い止めされたことになる。

 このようなことがまかり通ってしまえば、日本の労働社会は、会社の違法行為に誰も声を上げられなくなってしまう。

 本稿では、シェーンの事件を通じて、権利を行使した労働者に対する「報復」の問題とそうした労働者の「保護」の課題を考えていきたい。

休業補償の「返還」要請の撤回までの経緯

 まず、シェーンでの休業補償問題の経緯について見ていこう。シェーンでは約800名の常勤講師とカウンセラー・事務員が働いているが、基本的にみな、1年毎の有期雇用契約で雇われており、不安定な弱い立場に置かれている。

 東ゼン労組によれば、コロナ禍でも、シェーンは、そうした不安定な立場につけこんで、実質的に休業手当を支払わないという対応をした。

 具体的に見ていこう。シェーンは緊急事態宣言が発令された4月8日から5月末まで休校した際、これまでと同額(常勤講師の場合は25万円程度)を従業員に支払った。そのため休業手当は全額支払われたように思われた。

 だが、業務再開後の6月になって、会社は従業員に対し、4月・5月分として振り込んだ金額を返済するために、無給の残業をしなければならないと言い出した。つまり、従業員に支払われたお金は、休業手当ではなく、業務再開後に支給されるべき賃金の「前借り」だったというのだ。だが、それでは、休業補償を支払う法的義務に反するし、労基法が禁止する「前借金」に当たる可能性も大いにある。

 そこで、シェーンの従業員が加盟する東ゼン労組は、こうした方針を撤回するよう求めて団体交渉を行ったが、交渉は平行線となった。そのため、6月末以降、東ゼン労組は、労働組合法に権利として定められた団体行動権を行使して、連日ストライキを実施してきた。

 なかでも、7月21日は41人もの組合員がストライキを行い、会社側の業務にも大きな影響が出たという。さらに、その間の労使関係をみて、シェーンの従業員の多くが東ゼン労組の活動を支持するようになり、6月半ばの時点で20人程度であった組合員数(シェーンに勤める東ゼン労組の組合員数)が、秋口には80人近くまで増えたという。

 こうして東ゼン労組の活動が勢いを増すなか、会社も譲歩せざるを得なくなった。11月6日、ついにシェーンは、従業員全員に対して、休業手当の「返還」を一切求めないことを通知したのだ。

声を上げた労働者を狙い撃ちにした雇い止め

 ここまでであれば、紆余曲折あったにせよ、休業手当が全額支払われて問題は解決したかのように思われるだろう。実際、東ゼン労組の組合員も当初はそのように受け止めていた。

 ところが、その約2週間後、シェーンは、東ゼン労組のリーダー格の組合員Aさんを雇い止めにすると通告したのだ。さらに、同時期に、他にも3名の組合員が解雇や退職強要の末、退職に追い込まれた。

 そもそもシェーンは恒常的に人手不足に悩まされており、人員整理が必要な状況にはないという。実際、Aさんの雇い止め通告時に会社側が伝えた理由は、(1)3月に早退した際に診断書を提出しなかったことと、(2)Aさんの勤務する教室でコロナ感染者が出た際に上司に説明をしつこく求めたことの2点であったそうだ。

 だが、3月はすでにコロナが流行しており、自宅で数日間様子をみるという対応は、国のガイドラインにも沿う合理的な対応であり、また職場でコロナ感染者が出た際に納得のいくまで説明を求めることは当然のことであろう。

 なお、会社側は有期雇用契約の期間満了での雇い止めであるため法的にまったく問題がないと主張しているが、事実上、声を上げた労働者に対する報復という意図があれば、権利の濫用と評価され、雇い止めは無効である。

典型的な統治戦略としての「アメとムチ」

 休業手当の全額支払いとそれを求めて立ち上がった労働者の雇い止め通告は、一見すると会社の従業員対応としてちぐはぐな印象を持たれるかもしれない。

 だが、この二つの対応は、実はまったく矛盾しておらず、論理的に一貫した戦略であるように見える。

 その戦略とは「アメとムチ」と呼ばれるものだ。「アメとムチ」とは、19世紀末のドイツの為政者であるビスマルクの統治の手法に由来する言葉だ。ビスマルクは人民大衆を懐柔するために社会保障制度(アメ)を創設する一方で、政権に批判的な勢力を徹底的に弾圧(ムチ)した。多数派を懐柔することにより、声を上げる人たちを孤立させて、徹底的な弾圧に成功すれば、誰も抵抗できなくなる恐怖支配が完成する。

 「アメとムチ」の戦略は、企業の統治のために経営者によって用いられることもある。労働者の声に素直に耳を傾ける経営者ばかりではない。声を上げた労働者を異端者・反逆者とみなして、その動きを潰すために、他の従業員には甘い言葉をかけたり、買収を図ったりすることは、労使紛争においては決して珍しいことではないのだ。

 話を戻せば、シェーンの対応は、多くの従業員の不満を解消し手懐けながら、最も果敢に声を上げた労働者を孤立させたうえで雇い止めにする「アメとムチ」の戦略としてみると、何らの矛盾もない合理的なものとことができるだろう。

権利行使への「報復」への対処法

 もちろん、経営側の統治の観点から見ればある種の合理性があるとしても、「アメとムチ」の統治が貫徹することは労働者にとって望ましい状態ではない。権利行使への「報復」が許容されてしまえば、誰も声を上げられない息苦しい職場となってしまうからだ。

 それでは、こうした「報復」に労働者側がどのように対抗できるのだろうか。以下では、労働者側の「武器」となる法的根拠や対抗手段について見ていきたい。

 第一に、公益通報者保護法がある。休業補償の不払いや労働することを条件とする「前借金」の問題は労働基準法に抵触する可能性が高く、これを労働組合に相談したり会社側に改善を求めたりしたことは、同法の保護対象となる。こうした「告発」を理由とした雇い止め・無効と解され、退職強要などの不利益取り扱いについても禁止されている。

 第二に、労働組合法第7条1項において「労働者が労働組合の組合員であること、労働組合に加入し、若しくはこれを結成しようとしたこと若しくは労働組合の正当な行為をしたことの故をもって、その労働者を解雇し、その他これに対して不利益な取扱いをすること」は禁止されている。

 実際に、正当な権利行使への「報復」をシェーンから受けたと主張する東ゼン労組は、以上のような根拠から、団体交渉においてAさんらの雇い止め・解雇の無効を訴えているという。

 また、Aさんらの雇い止めが団結権を侵害する行為(不当労働行為)であるとして、年内に東京都労働委員会への救済申し立てを予定している。労働委員会は、不当労働行為に当たるかどうかを審査し、労組法違反が認められた際には使用者に改善を「命令」することのできる行政機関である。

ストライキは最も効果的な「武器」

 最後に、労働者には労働組合を通じて行使できるストライキ権という強力な「武器」について解説しておこう。ストライキとは、使用者側の行動や考えに反対し、労働者が集団で仕事を放棄して抗議することだ。もちろん、正当な権利を行使した労働者に対して使用者側が「報復」として解雇や不利益取り扱いをした際に、その撤回・取り止めを求めてストライキを行うこともできる。

 実際、東ゼン労組は、12月18日から、Aさんの雇い止めの撤回を求めて、連日ストライキを実施している。また、ストライキに際し、シェーン本社前で抗議行動も実施しているという。

 労働組合によるこうした集団的な行動は、上述した「アメとムチ」による支配への最も有効な抵抗手段でもある。「アメとムチ」による支配は、多数派を懐柔して、声を上げる人たちを弾圧することへの同意(黙認)を取り付けることで可能になる。裏を返せば、声を上げて「報復」された人以外も、権利行使への弾圧に抗議すれば、こうした支配は成り立たなくなるのだ。

 労働組合では団結の重要性が強調されるが、それはこのような意味においてである。声を上げた人が潰されるようでは、誰も声を上げられない。だから、声を上げた人が潰されないよう、労働者は団結する必要があるのだ。

コロナ禍で労働問題に直面している人たちへ

 私が代表を務めるNPO法人POSSEには、コロナ禍で既に3千件を超える労働相談が寄せられている。解雇・雇い止め、休業補償の問題など収入・生活に直結する深刻な相談ばかりだ。そして、その多くは使用者側の法違反を伴っており、労働組合で交渉したり行政・司法を活用したりすれば改善できる問題である。

 権利を行使するうえでハードルとなっているのは、使用者から「報復」されることへの恐れである。使用者に睨まれたらどうしようもないという諦念が広がっているのだ。

 だが、本稿で述べてきた通り、正当な権利行使への「報復」は違法である。そして、労働組合に加入して声を上げた場合には、行政(労働委員会)から使用者へ不当労働行為を改善するよう命令を出してもらうことができるし、ストライキによって反撃することもできる。

 万が一、使用者が権利行使を嫌悪して「報復」に出たとしても、労働者側が採れる対抗手段は多数ある。諦めずに是非相談、そして権利行使をしてみてほしい。

今野晴貴 | NPO法人POSSE代表。雇用・労働政策研究者。

SNA (Tokyo) — Shane Corporation management, which earlier this year attempted to force its language teachers to repay the furlough allowance they had received during the coronavirus emergency shutdown in the spring, has followed up with yet more egregious action.

In response to its initial attempt to recover the furlough allowance payments, Tozen Union, to which the Shane teachers belong, held collective bargaining sessions and took protest actions, including strikes. In the end, management relented and notified employees that they would not be required to repay the furlough allowance. For a time, there appeared to be a positive outcome for the talks between the labor union and management.

But Shane’s management proved unable to let the matter rest there. Management soon chose not to renew the contracts (effectively firing) leading union members who had actively organized the resistance. Naturally, the union believes that this is retaliation against the legitimate exercise of labor rights.

Backing up for a moment, it should be noted that about 800 full-time teachers, counselors, and staff work at Shane; but, in principle, each is employed on one-year fixed-term contracts. This precarious employment system obviously weakens their negotiating positions. Tozen Union claims that Shane took advantage of this questionable system even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

When Shane closed its schools between April 8, when the state of emergency was declared, and May 31, they paid employees their ordinary pay (about ¥250,000 gross for full-time teachers). At first it seemed that Shane had properly paid the entire furlough allowance in good faith.

But come June the company unexpectedly told employees they would have to do unpaid overtime in order to repay the money that had been transferred into their accounts in April and May. That meant Shane considered the money paid to employees, not as a furlough allowance, but rather as an advance to be paid back after the schools reopened. This was most likely a violation of the legal requirement to pay the furlough allowance, as well as the Labor Standards Act prohibition against lending wages in advance to be worked off later.

Tozen Union naturally demanded a reversal of this policy and held collective bargaining sessions. Talks came to loggerheads, and Tozen Union members went on strike on consecutive days, exercising their labor rights as stipulated in the Trade Union Act.

On July 21, more than forty workers went on strike, greatly impacting company operations. Many Shane employees supported Tozen Union’s actions, and the Shane Workers Union, which had only twenty members in mid-June, grew almost four-fold to nearly eighty by the autumn.

Ultimately, the company was forced to concede. On November 6, Shane notified all employees that it would not ask them to repay the furlough allowance after all.

It was only a fortnight later that Shane notified a leading union member that it would not renew his contract. Three other members were soon driven out of their jobs via dismissal or pressure to resign.

It should be pointed out that Shane suffers from chronic staff shortages and it has no need to downsize. In fact, the company cited two reasons when they first notified one union member of his non-renewal: that he had not submitted a medical report when he left work early one day in March; and that he was too persistent in asking his boss for an explanation when someone in his classroom was infected with Covid-19.

The coronavirus had already spread widely by March, and the employee’s decision to stay home and to watch developments was reasonable as well as in line with the national government’s guidelines at the time. Certainly, an employee seeking a clear explanation when someone at the workplace becomes infected with the coronavirus is entirely reasonable.

The company claims that there is no problem with non-renewals at the end of the fixed-term contract, but if non-renewals were indeed in retaliation against workers who raise their voices, then it would be an abuse of management prerogatives, and the non-renewal would be invalid.

Shane appears to be employing a strategy of what Japanese call “candy and the whip” (ame to muchi), known as “carrot and the stick” to English speakers. Such tactics have been faced by labor movements from very their outset in the 19th century. Some managers see workers who speak out as being heretics and rebels, and so they offer conciliatory gestures to most employees in order to co-opt them, while attempting to single out and crush those who are seen as being troublemakers.

Likewise, Shane’s management appears to have made an effort to placate most of its employees, while isolating and non-renewing the workers who showed the most courage to speak out against the unjust and probably illegal policy.

Article 7.1 of the Trade Union Act prohibits employers from “dismissing or otherwise treating in a disadvantageous manner a worker by reason of membership in a labor union, having tried to join or organize a labor union, or having performed legitimate union action.” Tozen Union claims that Shane has violated this provision by retaliating against union members for the legitimate exercise of their rights.

The union plans to sue in the Tokyo Labor Commission over this claim, and the commission will ultimately provide its judgment on whether or not the contract non-renewals went over the line.

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.

https://news.yahoo.co.jp/byline/konnoharuki/20200707-00187003/
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.

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.