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.

シェーン英会話講師、スト権行使拡大

2019年12月21日、シェーン英会話スクールの今年最後のレッスン日、東ゼン労組シェーン労働組合の組合員たちは、雇用の安定、社会保険への加入、全従業員の賃金3%引き上げ等の要求実現に向け、ストライキを起こした。このストライキは、5年間の労働紛争の歴史の中でも最も大きなストライキとなった。

シェーン英会話スクールにとって土曜日というのは一番忙しい曜日であり、講師の出勤人数も週の中では最大であるため、代わりの講師を手配するのが難しい曜日でもある。

カバー講師も含め計13人もの組合員がスト権を行使した。同ストライキにより、数々のスクールでスケジュールの混乱や授業の休講が発生した。

 同組合および支部は、これまでシェーン英会話スクールと数多くの団体交渉や事務折衝を行ってきたが、要求実現に対する進歩は見られないままであったため今回のストライキを決行した。今回のストライキで新たな組合員も一人加わった。

Shane Teachers Expand Strike

The last day before Winter Solstice (Dec. 21), Shane teachers upped the ante in their fight for job security, pension and health insurance, and a 3% pay hike.

In the wake of membership, growth, teachers at a dozen different schools lay down their chalk Saturday. Reports indicate schedule disruptions and cancelled classes.

Tozen Union and its chapter Shane Workers Union negotiated both on and off the record with the English language school but failed to make progress on demands, which included a union page in the Shane teachers bimonthly newsletter.

Management maintained its hard-line, making nothing more than symbolic gestures at concession.

Union teachers determined they had no choice but to muster their courage and strike both on Dec. 18 and then Dec. 21. The latter marked their largest strike in over five years of dispute.

At least one non-member joined the union just to participate in the strike.

GABA講師のストライキ権獲得 労働委員会

2019年10月23日

東京都労働委員会は今日、英会話スクールのGABAに対し、講師達のストライキ権を認めなければならないと命令を下した。

2016年に、東ゼン労組と同組合の支部であるGABA労働組合は、ストライキを打った講師陣に対し発行された警告書を撤回するよう、救済を申し立てた。

GABAは、1000人以上の講師と業務委託契約を結んでいるが、講師たちは単なるサービス提供者だとし、労働組合法に定められている労働者の権利はないと、主張した 

委員会は、講師たちは労働組合法が適用される条件を満たしているとし、ストライキの妨害行為に対し謝罪するよう、会社側に指示した。

大阪府労働委員会は、以前、組合(大阪にあるゼネラルユニオン、委員長は、デニス・テゾラット)を組織しているGABAの講師たちの団体交渉権を認めている。

これは非組合員も含む、全てのGABA講師たちの勝利です。」GABA労働組合の執行委員長タイラー・クリステンセンはこう述べる。

「私達がずっと言ってきたように、GABAの講師たちは通常の従業員たちと同等の権利を持っている。ということを確かにしました。今ここにて、私たちのストライキの権利は護られました。再び交渉の場に立ち、またこれからもGABAの講師たちのために、労働条件を改善し続けていくことを私たちは前向きに考えています。」

経営側は、もし仮に講師たちに団体交渉権があったとしても、ストライキ権も同時に持つべきではないと主張をした。

団結権、団体交渉権、団体行動権(ストライキを含む)は、労働三権として日本国憲法第28条にその規定が設けられている。 

委員会は、労働三権を分割して適用できるという、GABAが ”作り上げた”主張を却下した。

Gaba Teachers can Strike: Labor Board

Language school Gaba must recognize the right of instructors to strike, the Tokyo Labor Commission ruled today. 

Tozen Union and its local chapter Gaba Workers Union sued the language giant in 2016 to overturn warning letters issued to strikings teachers. 

Gaba has its more than one thousand teachers on private service provider contracts called gyomu itaku. The company argued that since each teacher is just a service provider, they don’t have the rights of workers under Japan’s Trade Union Act. 

The board noted that the teachers effectively qualify as workers for the purpose of that law and that the company must apologize to both unions for interfering in their strike. 

Osaka Labor Commission had previously recognized the right to collective bargaining of a union organizing teachers at Gaba (General Union). 

Management tried to overturn that ruling and argued that even IF teachers have the right to bargaining, they should not also  have the right to strike. 

In Japan, the rights to solidarity, collective bargaining, and collective action (including strikes) are enshrined as a set in Article 28 of the Constitution. 

“This is a victory for all Gaba instructors, including non-union members,” said Gaba Workers Union President Tyler Christensen.       

“It confirms what we’ve always said – Gaba instructors have the same rights as regular employees,” he added. “Now that our right to strike is secure, we look forward to getting back to the bargaining table and continuing to improve working conditions for Gaba instructors.”

The board rejected Gaba’s claim to be able to split the three rights (rodo sanken) as a theory they “just made up.”

Grève à l’Institut Français de Tokyo le samedi 27 février 2016

Devant l’obstination de la direction qui n’a rien voulu entendre, et qui trouve que passer à des contrats de 6 mois en lieu et place des contrats annuels actuels ne consiste pas en une dégradation des conditions de travail – quelle ironie quand on pense que la direction de l’IFJ est constituée en grande partie de fonctionnaires de l’Etat avec sécurité de l’emploi -, les membres du SEI de l’Institut Français de Tokyo ont fait grève aujourd’hui 27 février 2016. C’était une première depuis 25 ans à l’Institut de Tokyo.

Read moreGrève à l’Institut Français de Tokyo le samedi 27 février 2016

Lessons in Japan’s labor laws from striking NPB baseball stars and English teachers

Eleven years ago, baseball players walked off the field in protest for the first time in the seven-decade professional history of the game in Japan.

Owners wanted to consolidate two of the dozen pro teams, without offering a replacement. Players opposed the merger and were outraged that they had been kept out of the decision-making process. Atsuya Furuta of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows led collective bargaining on behalf of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association union. Talks broke down and players struck six scheduled games over two days.

Players reached out to their fans with signing and photo events. Most fans sided with the striking players, but a vocal minority accused them of selfishness and having insulted their fans.

It always strikes me as odd how striking workers — rather than stubborn bosses — are often the ones accused of greed. The players did not take the decision to strike lightly; they had agonized over the decision and certainly were not taking their fans for granted. They made impassioned appeals to the fans that a strike was the only way they could save the wonderful spirit of the game.

Read moreLessons in Japan’s labor laws from striking NPB baseball stars and English teachers