In 1997, the Osaka YMCA and the General Union signed a collective agreement confirming the YMCA’s policy of fighting against racial discrimination, stating that they would not discriminate on the basis of skin colour or nationality in the hiring process. While this policy is commendable, it fails to address the institutionalized discriminatory practices within the YMCA.
Historically, Osaka YMCA has been a “male-centred” organisation, but for many years now has heavily relied upon its foreign and female employees to generate income. This is particularly true in the International College and High School divisions. The YMCA’s “two tiered” hiring practices belies this fact, and is evidence of their continued discriminatory practices.
As with many Japanese companies, the YMCA hires employees in one of three ways.
1. Unlimited term contracts
2. One year limited term contracts
3. Part-time (working up to 40 hours per week).
Within Japan, unlimited term contracts are recognized as the most desirable as they provide the strongest protection for workers. So, in 1996 the General Union and YMCA began discussions to develop a system whereby foreigners would be given the same rights as Japanese Nationals and have access to the unlimited term contract system, culminating in a legally binding collective agreement in February 1997. Again in March 1998, YMCA gave written assurances of their commitment to such a system. Six years later, YMCA seems to have dropped all pretense of equal opportunity employment, and have still not provided foreign employees access to unlimited term contracts.
At Osaka YMCA International High School, 50% of full-time employees are native speakers of English. Yet, not one has ever been placed on an unlimited term contract, despite foreign teachers being essential to the school’s existence. With similar or identical duties to their Japanese male counterparts, native English speakers’ salaries are as much as 30% lower.
Not content to confine discrimination to foreigners, YMCA treats Japanese female employees with similar disregard. While all full time Japanese male teachers at the International High School enjoy unlimited term contracts, no female teacher at present enjoys this privilege. Again, their salaries are substantially less than their Japanese male counterparts.
In 2003, YMCA’s continued blatantly discriminatory practices lead to foreign employees striking for better working conditions, and we will continue to carry on this fight until the YMCA becomes a discrimination-free workplace.