A friend came across this "worksheet" floating around on the on the Internet, followed by praise for how "amazing" the worksheet was, and claims about its effectiveness at teaching certain concepts.
At first, we had a good old incredulous laugh about it - but then I started thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know).
Now, I don't want to embarrass the creator of the worksheet publicly, so I'm not going to link to the original site that it came from.
The person is working in Japan as a teacher in some capacity, and they obviously care enough about the job as their website has been designed for students to review class work and for out-of-school practice.
This worksheet, though...
Are RENGO And The Japanese Government Sending More People To Their Death With New Overtime Law Proposals?
At first glance, the title of this article may seem sensationalist; but when you look at the new overtime law proposals that have been cooked up between the government, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), and RENGO (Japan’s most pro-company union federation) you have to wonder if such a claim is really all that hyperbolic.
Like so many laws that aim to “improve” things for workers, these proposals would codify levels of overtime that are already known to cause serious health problems and - in many cases - death.
Current overtime rules state that overtime must be limited to:
- 5 hours per day
- 45 hours per month
- 360 hours per year
Last year we were approached by teachers at Hokkaido International School looking to unionize. Given that the company is located in Sapporo, and we could not legally enforce collective bargaining in Osaka, we decided it was best to find a local union.
Sapporo General Union (unrelated to General Union) does not actively seek foreign members but when we approached them they decided to take up HIS. It helped that there were potential members fluent in Japanese.
Our current union campaign is “Let’s PARiTY” and we're working on making sure all one year contract employees, staff and teachers, Japanese and foreign, have equal rights at ECC.
Joining lets you be involved in spreading fairness at ECC, and making sure that no one is cheated in their work.
PARiTY also means that we want the same rights to holidays, bonuses, and employment security that other “non-one-year-contract” workers at ECC enjoy.
As you probably know, General Union members are suing Nova over the issue of Independent Contracts. These contracts rob instructors of paid leave, unemployment insurance, health & pension, and even workers accident compensation, amongst other things.
Previously, we had submitted evidence of how Nova controls Independent Contractors despite the company claiming that they do not have any control.
Included in a long list of evidence was the case of Nova transferring one teacher to another school without his consent. In another situation, one teacher had finished his shift and was leaving the school when a staff member came running and grabbing him, insisting that he teach another video lesson.
"In twenty years of negotiating with employers all around Japan, I have never seen a company that holds their own employees - the economic engine of their own company - in such contempt. Most employers at least have the decency to pay lip service and offer hollow respect."
Dennis Tesolat (General Union Chair)
In January of this year, union members from the General Union and Tokyo Roso working at ECC all across Japan submitted demands to their employer to improve pay and other working conditions.
No company ever starts off with giving in to all union demands - but what we are currently witnessing at ECC is a full assault on the union and its members.
The first hearing in our member's case against Osaka Gaigo is set for March 13. Members and non-members alike are invited to attend. Our lawyers will also explain, in English and Japanese, the merits of the case, legal precedents, and how Osaka Gaigo broke the law.
Some people may still be unaware, but in April of 2013 the Labor Contract Law changed so that “when, under repeated limited-term contracts, the total period of employment exceeds five years, the limited-term contract can be converted to an unlimited one upon the worker’s request”. In other words, workers who have been employed under multiple limited-term contracts for a total period of over five years as of April 1, 2018, will become unlimited-term employees if they make a request to their company. (Please note this increases to ten years for some university positions that involve research.)
As a union, we believe that certain employee behaviour can, at times, warrant justifiable discipline (and even dismissal) under a fair set of working rules. Even so, this case raises some moral questions.
Many of you will have heard of the Kwansaei Gakuin lecturer who made a comment about seeing if a student from Fukushima Prefecture would "glow in the dark" (allegedly after turning off the lights in the classroom, according to some media). Fukushima, as you probably well know, is still experiencing the effects of a nuclear meltdown and the negative stigma that media saturation / sensationalism has caused.
The so-called "joke" was certainly offensive and inconsiderate, especially considering the bullying that has occurred to students relocated from Fukushima to other areas of Japan - but was the punishment appropriate?
With April quickly approaching, it will soon be "that time of year" again - a time in which many foreigners dance to the tune of impending transfers, turnovers, and replacements while Boards of Education across Japan throw money around in the hope that dispatch companies will be the solution to the very problems that dispatch companies create (and so the prophecy fulfils itself).
Those who are caught up in this annual waltz often find themselves with a number of decisions to make and, often, the idiom of "any port in a storm" seems an apt descriptor: when one is having serious trouble, one must accept any solution, whether one likes the solution or not; when one wants to live in Japan by any means necessary, one must accept any job, regardless of the reputation of the company that they want to work for.
In such a situation, the question of "at what cost?" might not be all that important - but do the ends always justify the means?
For more than 26 years, I have called Japan home in which most of that time I have worked as a part-time university English instructor at various institutions, settling at three Kansai area schools for the past ten years or so.
Schedule finalized for rally, discussion, general action, and more
Feb. 9 Shunto Rally
The start of the 2017 Shunto in Osaka will be Union Network’s ‘17 Shunto Rally. A talk will be given on “The Background to the Movement Demanding the Resignation of South Korea’s President” by Kim Mitsuo (Research-Action Institute for the Koreans in Japan).
Because there are a lot of dispatch companies and English conversation schools across Japan, it can be difficult to keep track of which company is which, and just as challenging to form a general idea of how those companies stack up against each other.
Even "back home" there are hordes of people who fail to plan properly and make wills, creating havoc for families in the event of death. And here in Japan, there is probably a much higher percentage of us who don't think about it, or put it in the "too difficult to deal with basket".
Back in December (2016), the General Secretary of the General Union sat down (over Skype) with James Winovich, creator of ALTinsider.com, for a rare podcast interview.
If you're interested in the circumstances behind how our secretariat became involved in union activism, how the General Union operates, or various other tidbits of union information and trivia, be sure to give the podcast (embedded below the fold) a listen!
What do we have planned to keep improving Berlitz?
After our victory last year which saw a 90yen increase for per lesson instructors and a 10% lesson reduction for contract instructors, the union is plowing ahead with more demands for improvements. You can be part of this by joining the union. Our victories affect all employees and we hope that you join to make us even stronger.
Shane English School - formerly "part of the global Saxoncourt Group", though now owned by the juku operator Eikoh in Japan - describes itself as "a world leader in the provision of high quality English courses and related services". With businesses "in the UK and Europe, East Asia, South East Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa", it "prides itself on its commitment to educational excellence".
General Union members at Doshisha Kori Junior and Senior High School have been attempting to get their employer agree to a union "dues checkoff" system. This would allow union members to have their dues withdrawn directly from their monthly salaries.
Companies require you show up to work on time and - during the time you are being paid - give your attention to the job at hand. This is not only an expectation, however - they demand it of you, and will sanction you with pay cuts, fines, warnings, disciplinary actions, and dismissal, if you fail to live up to your end of the agreement.
Over the years, the General Union has played host to a handful of "OP-ED" articles written by members and non-members alike. For example, one of our most recent opinion articles - "The Myth of Low Cost Dispatching" - garnered quite a lot of attention on both Facebook and our website.
You might have heard the term seishain (正社員) but have you heard the word sennin(専任)? And how are they different?
Both words refer to employment status and both indicate that the worker is a permanent employee, most likely entitled to bonuses (not always), and in some cases, in particular at “rich” companies, even a big lump sum of cash upon their retirement. Depending on the length of employment, this can be over 10,000,000 yen.
One of the biggest arguments for the continued existence of dispatch companies (such as Altia Central, Interac, Joytalk, and Heart Corporation) is that it is "too expensive" for boards of education to directly hire people. The contention often goes that direct hire is a luxury that only the richest boards of education can afford; a position awarded to only the most experienced and trustworthy teachers in order to justify the high cost associated with such talent.
In contrast, dispatch companies provide ALTs "on the cheap"; they "create jobs" for people that would otherwise not exist were there no other options.
Or do they?
The General Union branch organising Osaka City Native English Teachers (CNETS) has won a small victory in forcing the Osaka City Board of Education to accept the right of teachers who have health problems to claim "shobyo teate" (Accident and Sickness Compensation; the equivalent of sick pay) on their health insurance.
Up until recently, teachers who were off from work sick faced pressure from Board of Education officials to use their annual leave.
Berlitz employees, dispatched to a junior and senior high school, joined the General Union last year after working for many years with no increase in their base salaries. They felt that, since regular Berlitz employees get pay increases, they should also be eligible for the same. They demanded that the company not only increase their salaries, but also address the fact that they had gone so long without a base pay increase.
We are happy to announce that we were able to secure a pay increase for all members based on seniority, stipends for extra duties, and a set yearly completion bonus for all.
As we have already reported, the Osaka Prefectural Labor Relations Commission issued a ruling on October 14th, 2016, stating that the Takasuki City Board of Education's decision to ban AETs (who are General Union members) from attending graduation ceremonies was an unfair labor practice.
In reaching their verdict, the Labor Relations Commission also ordered the Mayor of Takatsuki City to hand-deliver a letter to the General Union, admitting that Takatsuki City committed an unfair labor practice, and promising that they will never repeat that kind of petty (and illegal) behavior again.
Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of happiness and joy in a woman's life. It is also a time in which pregnant women have to be especially careful about their health, their finances, their work situation, and their relationships, as they make the journey towards motherhood.
This was the case for one woman who assumed that she had everything under control - until her employer, a Board of Education, informed her they would not allow her to take maternity leave. Instead of supporting her, the Board of Education decided that they would fire her.
In the past, we've spoken in detail about the numerous ways that some English Conversation schools exploit contracted teachers in order to "have their cake AND eat it".
As we've noted, they accomplish this by asserting that said contracted teachers are not REAL employees, but are ACTUALLY just freelance individuals who are "providing a service" to the company. Suffice to say, we are vehemently against this practice.
However, it's important to note that our stance against issue not just rhetoric. As a matter of fact, we're actually doing something about this situation:
We're taking NOVA to court over it.
At the height of the dispute between the former Takatsuki AETs and the Takatsuki Board of Education which had dismissed them for complaining about sub-standard housing conditions (prior to claiming that the AETs were never employees of the Board of Education to begin with), there was a particularly spiteful episode in which the Board of Education decided to turn a labor issue into a personal issue, reacting to the AETs labor actions by prohibiting them from attending their final graduation ceremonies.
At this point, all attempts at professionalism had been replaced with petty revenge, punishing both the teachers and their students by denying them from sharing in one of the most important events of a student's life together.
However, karma has a habit of catching up to everyone, regardless of their position in life...
On August 17th, 2016, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), began tracking a subtropical depression that soon evolved into a powerful and erratic tropical cyclone.
On August 29th, the cyclone - now named "Lionrock" - abruptly and unexpectedly changed course, placing it on an unprecedented path towards Japan's tsunami and earthquake ravaged Tōhoku region, with Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate prefectures in particular braced to feel the full brunt of Lionrock's power...