Tozen ALTs Enter Dispute with Interac  東ゼン労組のALT支部が、インタラックと労働紛争に突

On May 11, 2021, Tozen Union entered into dispute with Interac. Since our first collective bargaining (CB) in October 2019, Tozen Union and Interac have taken several important steps toward working out a deal. But after twenty-six CB sessions, workplace safety and wage issues remain. Our campaign to improve working conditions at Interac is important not just for employees, but for students and Japan’s education system.

2021年5月11日より東ゼン労組は株式会社インタラック関東南と(以下、インタラック)労働紛争に入りました。2019年10月に行われた初の団体交渉以来、東ゼン労組とインタラックは解決の方向へ進展を遂げてきました。しかし、職場の安全と賃金については、26回もの団体交渉を繰り返す中で、未だに進展がありません。東ゼン労組がインタラックの労働条件をより良くしようと挑んでいるこのキャンペーンは、労働者だけではなく、生徒たちや日本の教育システムにとっても大事な活動です。

 

Our Work

私たちの仕事

Interac ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) are dispatched to teach English in public and other schools in coordination with Japanese English teachers. Most ALTs are native speakers, and it is our job to add context and color to lessons, bringing English to life in the classroom. ALTs foster international understanding in the schools and communities they are part of.

インタラックのALT(外国語指導助手)は、インタラックから学校に派遣されて、日本人の英語教師と共に英語の指導をしております。ほとんどのALTはネイティブスピーカーです。私たちの仕事は、活きた授業を提供し、授業を彩り豊かにすること、及び、教室で英語に命を吹き込むことです。ALTは、学校及びコミュニティで、国際理解を育んでいます。

 

Our Demands

私たちの要求事項

Tozen Union requested collective bargaining with Interac in August of 2019. Our demands included full-time employment for our members, shakai hoken, and a wage increase. We have made some progress, including securing full-time employment for one of our part time members. Interac, however, refuses to enroll our members in Shakai Hoken or make any wage concession.

2019年8月に団体交渉を申し入れました。組合員のフルタイムへの転換、社会保険の加入、並びに賃金上げ等を要求しました。その中でも、パートタイムであった組合員のフルタイム転換など、いくつかの要求で進歩がありました。ただし、インタラックは、社会保険に加入させなかった組合員の加入を認めず、賃金上げに関する提案がありません。

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the union demanded health and safety measures such as the providing face masks. Interac instructs their ALTs to wear masks at all times when at school. Last year, management said they were working on a proposal regarding masks, but nothing came of it. We are still waiting.

なお、コロナ禍への対応について、東ゼン労組は、マスクの提供などの安全衛生の対策を要求しました。インタラックは、ALTが校内にいる場合、常にマスクを着用するよう指示しています。昨年、経営側は、マスクに関する提案に取り組んでいたと言いましたが、現在にいたるまで、提案はありません。私たちは、現在も待ち続けています。

The Union has demanded paid leave for employees who get sick with covid-19. Interac has refused.

さらに、東ゼン労組は、組合員が新型コロナウイルスの感染が確認された従業員に対して、2週間の特別有給休暇を要求しましたが、インタラックはこの要求を認めていません。

Interac has a responsibility to take care of the people who work for them. For years our members have been paid low wages, yet they need to provide their own personal protective equipment during this pandemic. On top of that, most of our members are not enrolled in Shakai Hoken. This has left them financially distressed and vulnerable.

インタラックには、従業員の安全性を確保する責任があります。長年、組合員は、低い賃金を支払われていますが、コロナ禍において、自らでマスクを用意しなければなりません。それに加え、組合員の過半数が未だに社会保険に加入していません。この状況下で、組合員は生活困難、そして社会的弱者となりました。

 

Interac’s Broken Wage System

インタラックの破綻した賃金制度

Full-time ALTs cannot live comfortably on an Interac salary. All our members have to hold a second job just to pay the bills, including city tax, and non-employee health insurance and pension premiums.

インタラックのフルタイムALTは、インタラックからの賃金のみで快適な生活を送るということはできません。住民税、国民健康保険料、国民年金等を支払う為に、すべての組合員が他の仕事しなければなりません。

ALT wages remain low no matter how long our members work at Interac. An emergency would cause our members financial crisis. Living costs increase as we grow older. Interac ALTs want to feel secure in their jobs and incomes.

インタラックALTの賃金は、どんなに長期間働いていようが低賃金のままです。緊急事態が発生した場合、組合員は経済困難に陥ってしまいます。年齢を重ねるごとに生活費も高くなります。インタラックALTは、安定した雇用、適正な賃金を求めています。

Why doesn’t Interac do something to fix this? ALT dispatch companies bid against each other to win contracts with boards of education and schools. This results in a race to the bottom. Dispatch ALTs make less than their direct-hire counterparts. Non-enrollment in Shakai Hoken runs rampant throughout the dispatch ALT industry. Tozen Union would be more than happy to work with Interac on reforming this system.

なぜインタラックは、この問題に対処しないのでしょうか。ALT派遣会社の多くが、教育委員会又は学校との契約を勝ち取るために競い合っています。その結果、底辺への競争になります。直接雇用のALTと比べ、派遣会社のALTの賃金は低く、社会保険へ加入率も低いです。東ゼン労組は、インタラックと協力し、この制度の改正に取り組むことができるのであれば、それに勝る喜びはありません。

Interac refuses to work with Tozen Union. During bargaining, we learned that Interac Kanto South, the company that employs our members, booked healthy profits in 2020. Interac has enough money to provide members with a badly needed pay hike. Interac is prioritizing profit over the well being of its employees.

しかし、インタラックは、東ゼン労組と協力する姿勢を見せません。団体交渉の際に、組合員を雇用している株式会社インタラック南が2020年度にかなりの利益を得ていることを知りました。インタラックは、組合員が強く求めている賃上げを実現できるほどのお金を持っています。こうした状況を見る限り、インタラックは従業員の生活よりも、利益を優先していることが見受けられます。

 

Our Strike 

私たちのストライキ

Our members enjoy working for Interac. They care about their schools and their students. Unfortunately, the company has abandoned its responsibilities for the health and safety of our members. Interac has made no pay concession after two years of talks. The union has done its best to avoid a labor dispute. With no options left, we have decided to exercise our right to strike.

東ゼン労組の組合員は、楽しんでインタラックで仕事をしており、学校及び学生のことをいつも気に掛けています。ただ非常に残念なことには、経営側は、組合員の安全衛生の保護責任を放棄しているということです。2年間の交渉で、賃金に関する譲歩もありません。東ゼン労組は、労働紛争を回避を試みましたが、他の選択肢がなく、スト権を行使せざるを得ません。

Tozen Union urges Interac to reconsider and make a good faith offer on wages.

東ゼン労組は、インタラックに対し、賃金に関する再検討および誠実な提案をすることを求めます。

 

We Need You

To bring about real, systemic change we need Interac employees (ALTs and Interac office staff, both foreign and Japanese) to join us. With numbers we have power.

本当の実質的かつ組織的な変化を実現するために、インタラックの従業員(ALT、事務スタッフ、外国人、及び日本人)が組合に入るのは当然です。数は力になります。

Interac employs thousands of ALTs dispatched to schools across Japan. We ask the public to take an active interest in the ALTs teaching in your schools and living in your communities.

インタラックは、日本全国で数千人のALTを雇用し、学校へ派遣しています。私たちは、皆の学校へ教えて、皆のコミュニティに住んでいているALTsに積極的に関わるようお願い致します。

We implore members of the schools (principals, teachers, parents) and boards of education to speak up and support our strike. The company is successful; their ALTs are struggling financially. We need to take a stand and fight for fair wages.

私たちは、学校の関係者各位(校長、職員、保護者)及び教育委員会に対し、声を大にし、ストライキを支援するよう懇願します。

For further information please email our case officer, Gerome Rothman: tozen.rothman@gmail.com

お問い合わせは、担当者ジェローム・ロスマン(tozen.rothman@gmail.com)までご連絡下さい。

Bread & Roses: Covid, Not Olympics, Requires Our National Effort

SNA (Tokyo) — I teach a weekly class on social security theory at a nursing college. When I read comments from the aspiring nurses, I can see their passion for alleviating human suffering, as well as for the class, which is gratifying as a teacher.

The Covid pandemic that has spread over the globe over the past year has impacted medical facilities the most. Tokyo recently declared its third state of emergency, as the daily toll of new patients sometimes exceeds 1,000 people. Japan doesn’t restrict people’s movement as in a mandatory lockdown; the state of emergency means only that restaurants and department stores close an hour earlier than usual, and restaurants serve fewer alcoholic beverages.

Read moreBread & Roses: Covid, Not Olympics, Requires Our National Effort

Tozen Union Opposes the Tokyo Olympics

As a labour union we fight for workers’ rights, and worker safety. And the Tokyo Olympics has had numerous counts of worker deaths and injuries, and workers have reported a “culture of fear” that discouraged them from making complaints about working conditions.

Another major reason that we do not support the Olympics is that the world is currently in the midst of a global pandemic. Corona cases in Japan have been constantly rising and dropping, and with no large-scale vaccination in sight, going ahead with the olympics would be an unnecessary risk to all.

Other reasons that we oppose the Tokyo Olympics are:

  • Financial costs
  • Loss of homes
  • Reports of corruption and bribery
  • The militarisation of the police
  • Unsafe temperatures.

フィリピン人家事労働者が抱えている労働問題が記事になりました。 TOZEN mentioned in article about Filipino domestic workers.

Tozen, and our President Okunuki Hifumi, have been mentioned in the following article by Mieko Takenobu about the difficulties that Filipino domestic workers have.

竹信三恵子氏のフィリピン人家事労働者が抱える問題についての記事の中で、東ゼン労組と執行委員長の奥貫妃文についても触れていただきました。

所持金1000円の外国人家政婦たち〜国家戦略特区「家事支援人材制度」の歪み /竹信三恵子

Bread & Roses: Needless Death of a Sri Lankan Detainee

 

SNA (Tokyo) — “Japan is safer than other countries; the Japanese are kind; the streets are clean; and it’s easy to live here.” I hear foreigners say these things. But I also hear it from Japanese who have never lived abroad. The mainstream media’s Nippon Sugoi! campaign is working, perhaps, but it’s not far off from the nation’s general reputation. But read on: The current reality may blow your image of my country to smithereens. Can such a thing be happening in Japan in 2021?

Read moreBread & Roses: Needless Death of a Sri Lankan Detainee

Bread & Roses: Osaka Court Overturns Welfare Cut

SNA (Tokyo) — A Japanese court overturned a welfare reduction for the first time ever on February 22, 2021. The Osaka District Court ruled against the government’s 2013 public assistance reduction of ¥67 billion (US$632 million), marking the first court win for the Inochi no Toride litigation campaign, involving more than 1,000 plaintiffs in 29 prefectures around Japan.

Attorney Tetsuro Kokubo, deputy head of the defense team, said, “This is the first time in my long career as a lawyer that I cried when I heard the verdict.” The comment poignantly conveys the challenges of fighting state power.

Read moreBread & Roses: Osaka Court Overturns Welfare Cut

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.’”

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.

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.

Bread & Roses: Workers of the World! Unite and Stay Home!

SNA (Tokyo) — May Day came into this world on May 1, 1886, with a general strike to win “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” Three days later, workers gathered in Haymarket Square, Chicago, and clashed with cops sent in to shut them down. At least four civilians and seven officers died. Four workers were later sentenced to death for conspiracy to riot, despite not a shred of evidence. May Day spread beyond the borders of the United States to Europe and elsewhere. Today, we see the eight-hour workday as a social norm, albeit observed more in the breech. But workers shed blood and tears to bequeath this right to us. We should devote one day a year to recognizing those heroes’ achievement and sacrifice.

Read moreBread & Roses: Workers of the World! Unite and Stay Home!