In has been a long road since Berlitz unilaterally set out to solve a problem that the General Union has long complained about.
Like many other companies, Berlitz has never paid teachers for the time they spend working between lessons.
While teachers have been compensated for their teaching time, the company failed to understand that this time is often used for preparing things, such as planning their next lesson, preparing textbooks, writing reports, and discussing issues with other teachers and members of staff.
What is a company's most important asset? Is it the cash in its bank account? Nope, not even close! How about the building or location that a company is located in? Sorry, no dice! What about the company's president? Even they are nowhere near as important to a company’' success when compared to its employees.
We’re still here
Maybe you haven’t heard from us for some time, but remember, we’re still here. Union members are still negotiating with the company over how you will be reimbursed for the five minutes before, between, and after lessons.
We beat the company’s unilateral plan to give with one hand and take with the other.
Work rules are specific rules for the workplace that outline conditions such as work hours, salary, and rules employees need to abide by. In Japan, companies with 10 or more regular employees must draw up work rules and submit them to the Labor Standards Inspection Office.
At Berlitz Japan we have work rules and also a Policies and Procedures Manual that is used in conjunction with the Berlitz Work Rules. The Policies and Procedures Manual considers how the Berlitz Work Rules apply on a day to day basis and where there is any conflict, the Berlitz Work Rules take precedence as long as they are in accordance
with Labor Laws.
Background To Recent Events
On 28 October 2014 instructors received a personalized hand delivered letter outlining a set of changes to their contracts as well as notification of a new Full Time Instructor Contract. The Berlitz Branch union contested the arbitrary changes in collective bargaining on a number of points:
The announcement of arbitrary changes was made public without any preconsultation which we feel violates one of our union and company collective agreements.
During the first week of January union members at Berlitz took an almost unanimous strike ballot in order to back our demands.
1. Full pay for all work before, between, and after lessons.
2. Withdrawal of the unilateral company proposal for clawbacks (while trying to pay for time between lessons)
As a long term Berlitz instructor, I've seen the company implement many positive changes that benefit management and the students. Unfortunately, these changes have been detrimental to instructor working conditions and every new generation of instructor is expected to give more for less.
Many people have been following our Berlitz story with great interest. The main part of the story is the union's ongoing struggle to make sure that ALL work time, not just teaching time is paid. After many years Berlitz has now made an attempt to cover payment for work between lessons by offering a tiny rate increase while making many clawbacks especially to those on per lesson contracts.
Think you're getting a pay rise? Think again!
Berlitz Japan is trying to convince teachers that they will win with the company's new contract offering, but union members don't believe this! Union members are still locked in negotiations with the company to protect and improve working conditions.
Joe M. (Chair)
As a long term employee at Berlitz I take great interest in the direction of the company and the well being of my colleagues. Being branch chair allows me to represent our members and ensure our voice is heard on an even footing.
Jools C. (Secretary-Treasurer)
I joined the General Union in 2002 and have witnessed some fundamental improvements in working conditions due to persistent union activity. Our union brings change that goes far beyond the workplace and has a direct impact on society. This keeps me focused on our overall long term goals.
Disciplinary procedures and student complaints can cause a lot of stress for many teachers. Teachers are sent into a room alone to face people who are in a position of power and often feel bullied into signing statements of guilt with no time to consider what is happening or get advice.
General Union members at Berlitz will meet this Sunday, 16 February to plan their third round of collective bargaining. Current demands include a 7% pay increase, pay for lock ups, union representation at disciplinary hearings, and pay for work done before, between, and after lessons; along with others.
Many of the working conditions that you now enjoy have been negotiated between the General Union and Berlitz:
- Enrollment in Unemployment Insurance for MG teachers.
- Enrollment in Health and Pension Insurance (shakai hoken) for those working 30+ hours per week.
- Paid holidays for MG and per lesson teachers. (collective agreements 1994 & 1999)
- Premium pay of 25% overtime and 35% for work on a set rest day.(collective agreement 1994)
- Right to refuse work on a set rest day or national holiday(collective agreement 1996)
- Pre-consultation agreement with the union before terminating, transferring or changing the working conditions of any union member.(collective agreement 1994)
- Grievances dealing with dismissals, health insurance, unfair treatment of teachers.
After the biggest union meeting of Berlitz union members at the end of August, the union has submitted demands to raise wages, protect part time teachers from arbitrary cuts in lessons taught, and to make sure that Berlitz teachers are paid for all the work they do.
1. CTL Courtesy Calls
We have been told that MIs will be asked to inform the office staff to tell teachers about CTLs when possible. We wish to see if this is happening. Please let us know if you are not informed about your CTLs.
1. A courtesy call when lessons are cancelled late. We have been told that ISs will be asked to inform the staff to tell teachers about CTL lessons when possible. We wish to see if this is happening. Please let us know if you are not informed about your CTLs.
2. Allowing all teachers to participate in training seminars and workshops. ISs will be informed to let all teachers know about upcoming training and to allow teachers to participate if it fits into the LC’s training budget. Let us know if you’re being informed.
¥110 million claim against teachers, union execs dropped, ending four-year fight
The four-year legal battle between management and teachers at Berlitz Japan was declared over Thursday as both sides signed an agreement to end the company's lawsuit against union officials.
Union members at Berlitz sent seven new demands for collective bargaining to Berlitz Japan this week.
1. A courtesy call when lessons are cancelled late.
Teachers are now paid for these CTL (cancelled too late) classes, but because teachers don't always teach their lessons in a row, they may end up at school at 8AM just to find the class cancelled and their next class not until noon.
Berlitz teachers in the Kansai and Tokai areas are continuing consultations with union members to gear up for a new round of demands and negotiations.
At this point most of the demands focus around workplace issues that make teachers' working lives a little easier.
During 2008’s shunto spring labour offensive, Berlitz General Union Tokyo (Begunto) demanded the first base pay increase in 16 years and began a long-term surgical strike campaign.
Berlitz management, however, claimed the strike’s purpose was to hurt the company rather than realize the demands, and sued the parent union, National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu; Begunto; Nambu President; Deputy General Secretary; and five Begunto executives for alleged damages of 110 million yen.
How much notice does the company request when taking paid vacation?
For paid vacation requests of less than 5 days, the company suggests at least one week’s notice.
For paid vacation requests of more than 5 days, the company suggests at least one month’s notice.
However, the company can be flexible on this. If your requests are not being acted on in a timely manner, please contact your union representative.
Friday, October 24 More than 120 people came out to support Bengunto (Berlitz Union Tokyo) as they stepped up the campaign at Berlitz and submitted demands to their parent company, Benesse.
Berlitz Kansai union members have taken a stand and voted to push ahead to win payment for the 5 minute interval between lessons. Berlitz calls it a break but a break presumes that it is time off to relax. The interval between lessons at Berlitz is very much work – unpaid work.
Begunto (The Berlitz General Union Tokyo, a local of Nambu) maintained and expanded its 2007 shunto strike during this year’s shunto, focusing on two demands: a 4.6% across-the-boards base pay hike and a one month bonus.
Nearly half of all 46 Berlitz schools in the Kanto plain have been hit by walkouts since the dispute began last December. Over 55 teachers have joined in the time-fixed, volunteer strikes, making it by many accounts the largest enduring work stoppage in the history of Japan’s language industry.