Ritsumeikan Labour Commission Hearing

Mar 7, 2006

Ritsumeikan branch member and GU officer, Endo Reiko gave evidence for the GU. Reiko explained how the dispute had arisen out of Ritsumeikan’s employment system. Only around 50% of the university’s employees are employed on permanent contracts. The remainder are employed on a variety of different one year contracts, hijoukin, shokutaku and jokin. Ritsumeikan also dispatches, illegally in Reiko’s view, some workers to the university from a wholly Ritsumeikan owned subsidiary called Creotec. The main issue at negotiations was a limit on the number of renewals allowed to teachers employed on jokin and shokutaku contracts. The limit, 3 renewals in the case of Jokin and four for shokutaku, was not written into the contract or working regulations, but existed as an internal administrative rule. Reiko stated that although she didn’t know whether a court would actually rule such a system illegal, but de facto four and five year contracts were strange and at variance with the Labour Standards Law that only allows for one or three year contracts for this kind of work Reiko detailed the discrimination against the General Union and its members. Ritsumeikan had rejected the union’s demands for an office on campus and notice-boards to advertise union activities. At the same time the university had extended these facilities to the in house union, with which it historically has had a very close relationship. Morishima, the present head of personnel was a former leader of this union. The university provides it with, not only an office, but a whole three storey building. Recently a new notice board appeared for the Ritsumeikan Union in one of the faculties. Since GU leaflets are regularly removed by faculty staff the GU demanded equal posting rights. Instead the Ritsumeikan Union notice board was re-labelled “for the use of sennin (tenured) faculty.” It continued to be used by the Ritsumeikan union. The GU is almost entirely composed of non-tenured employees, the RU on the other hand does not allow these workers to join. This kind of favoritism extended to one union is illegal under Japanese labour law. More seriously four members who participated in a pre-work leafletting of colleagues and students putting the union’s case against the term limits received threats that their contracts might not be renewed of and in some cases that they could, “find it difficult to get work at other universities” unless they stopped their union activities. The leaflet distributed was also described as “illegal” and it was suggested that teachers had breached their contracts by distributing it. The union believed that this campaign of threats was orchestrated by the personnel department. Neither Reiko, nor the branch chair, who had both participated in the leafletting, had been threatened, only rank and file members. It was aimed at scaring people away from the union. Whilst none of those threatened had left the union, it had possibly had an effect in discouraging others from joining. The university also sent the union an official letter demanding an apology. In addition to engaging in discrimination and threats Ritsumeikan had failed to negotiate in good faith with the union. When the union had attempted to negotiate the extension of the contracts of jokin members at the university’s Biwako Kusatsu Campus. Ritsumeikan responded by announcing the abolition of the jokin system, phasing it out in favour of the lower-paid shokutaku. When Ritsumeikan conceded that the jokin could apply for the new shokutaku positions, and promised that the personnel department would not intervene to prevent them from being selected, the GU advised its members to apply. As Reiko pointed out, this would not have been ideal from a union point of view, but it could have provided the basis for a settlement. However, none of the jokin were even given interviews for the positions let alone given the jobs. Instead, at meetings where notice was given of their dismissal they were told that “because of the labour law” they would have to take a break from working at Ritsumeikan and couldn’t even be given the part-time work that some had been promised. Whilst stating that it wasn’t clear this time whether an internal power-struggle had prevented some kind of compromise or the whole thing had been a ruse from the beginning, Reiko explained how Ritsumeikan had used similar under-handed methods to dismiss other workers. Student counsellors who had worked at Ritsumeikan, for 9 years in some cases, had been forced to apply for their own jobs. Before their interviews they had found a memo in the waste-bin detailing people who would not be employed. While at first denying the memo, Ritsumeikan was later forced to apologize for the incident. As a result of the failure to negotiate in good faith, the threatened dismissal of union members and proposals to change the shokutaku contract to give them extra work, the GU gave Ritsumeikan a deadline for strike action. Ritsumeikan responded with posters in the faculties slandering the union accusing it of not caring about students’ education and of threatening to strike without notice. After a strike took place, this was followed up with fresh posters which amongst other things stated that they would pressurize union members to teach Saturday make-up classes as a substitute for the classes missed due to the strike. Strikers were sent a threatening letter over the winter break informing them that they were required to teach a make-up class for all missed classes. The right to strike is clearly recognized in the Trade Union Law, and the union believes that this kind of pressure is clearly illegal under that law. Reiko went on to explain that the unfair labour practices committed by Ritsumeikan are continuing and have not ceased. Union members who participated in the strike where excluded from marking entrance exams. Work for which they receive extra pay and in the case of jokin is required by their contracts. When some full-time faculty met with the the GU branch chair and others to exam whether there was the basis for a possible compromise solution, the personnel department sent the GU office a letter disassociating themselves from their actions, in the union’s view deliberately trying to undermine any kind of progress. Jokin at Ritsumeikan’s APU campus in Oita prefecture, with similar problems, have joined a Zenroren affiliated union and they have big dispute in Oita and came to Kyoto to protest, too. At the next hearing on Tuesday, March 28th Reiko will be cross-examined by Ritsumeikan’s lawyers. We urge all GU members to come along and express their support.