Berlitz Teachers: More Money; Fewer Classes. Brought To You By: The General Union. (Starts September 18th)

In a remarkable display of solidarity and strategy, Berlitz union members have made enormous gains for all instructors at Berlitz - both union and non-union.

The biggest gains:

  • A ¥90-per-40-minute-class pay increase for per lesson (PL) teachers. For a new teacher, this is a jump from ¥1920 per class to ¥2010; an almost 5% increase! (For our non-Berlitz friends: a "per lesson teacher" is kind of like an on-call part-timer, and a major pillar of the Berlitz workforce.)
  • A 10% cut in lessons for contract teachers. At Berlitz, there are numerous types of contracts. For example, they have contracts for 20, 35, 40, and 40+ lessons per week at a fixed monthly salary. This means that they will work less for the same pay.

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How This Was Won (The Full Story Can Be Found Here)

They won this the union way: by sticking together, and sticking to their guns. They built the union up from about fifteen to fifty-plus members in a matter of months, took a strike vote, and then made their offer to the company. While we negotiated, we kept the possibility of a strike on the table while still giving the company extensions for each negotiation session where we moved forward.

They didn't just think about this current round of bargaining in front of them, either; they built with one eye on the future, and another on an even stronger union. We were able to secure a dues check-off agreement.

With this agreement, members can pay their dues through an automatic, monthly deduction from their wages, which are then remitted to the union by the company.

Not only does this make sure that people are paying their dues and staying in the union, it makes it easier to join the union; and in the eyes of new teachers and non-union people, it grants the union a lot of legitimacy.

This is why we're still growing at Berlitz.

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What Else Was Won?

The agreement was more than just the two points listed above and the dues check-off. Further victories include:

  • An increase in overtime rates / out-of-contract rates for all classes of employees.
  • Easier Shakai Hoken enrolment conditions - as well as easier conditions to receive things such as special paid leave and sick days.
  • An established grievance procedure, with disciplinary action being deferred if the union submits a grievance prior to any disciplinary action taking place.
  • A strike notice agreement, in which the union agrees to give around eleven hours notice prior to any strike actions. While some may say that such an arrangement weakens the union, we believe that it's basically a guarantee from the company that it will recognise our strikes and prevent interference.

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What Wasn't Won?

Are there things that we didn't win? Of course. Diplomacy is all about give-and-take, and some concessions have to be made for the greater good.

However, in the end, our members believed that what was being presented was a strong agreement that gave credibility to (and paved the foundation for) future negotiations with the company.

Although we failed to win retroactive compensation for all of the unpaid "preparation time" that occurred prior to this agreement, most members believed that this was a minor concession compared to what was being gained (better the pay rise that keeps on giving).

While we were able to attain a lesson reduction for contract teachers, we were not able to win the major pay increase that some contract teachers had hoped for. This does not mean that the issue is dead and buried, however, and it is something that the General Union hopes to conduct bargaining on in the near future.

We'd like to congratulate our members at Berlitz and let people know that they can do it too, and the Berlitz people are more than happy to teach you how to win at the bargaining table through a strong organising campaign!

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