Do you work at a private high school, junior high school or elementary school?

Jun 12, 2010


Have a look at some common questions that the union gets from private school teachers and more importantly, how the union has been able to help.

I’m a part time teacher and our class hours go up and down every year. I don’t mind if it’s a few classes, as it tends to balance out over the years, but this year my school is proposing a drastic cut in my class hours.

The General Union has negotiated with many different schools in this case and sometimes is able to stop cuts in classes or in other cases win a retirement allowance for the teacher, or teachers involved.

I’ve worked at a private school for numerous years as a full time teacher. This current year there was a problem with a student that I thought had been resolved. I’ve now been told that because of this problem my contract will not be renewed.

Depending on how long you’ve worked at your school, your employer may not be able to just simply ‘not renew’ your employment contract and your employer probably knows this. Often your school may try to get you to sign a resignation or even offer you a small sum of money to go quietly. Our experience shows that you shouldn’t sign anything until you’ve taken some good advice on the matter. The union can be an excellent place to get that advice.

Over the years we’ve held bargaining with a number of private schools over disciplinary and non disciplinary dismissals. We have often been able to stop the dismissal or in other cases win retirement allowances for the teacher concerned. We cannot guarantee success, and there may even be cases where there are few or no grounds to fight dismissal, but you’re better off getting good advice from those who have experience and your best interest at heart.

Just recently there has been a lot of debate about health and pension insurance. For years, I thought I was quite lucky that I wasn’t enrolled in these public insurances, but lately I’ve started to worry about the consequences of non-enrolment.

The debate about enrollment is long and the discussion about the benefits is even longer. Our union believes that all employees regardless of nationality, whether full or part time, should be enrolled in health and pension insurance. Not only do we believe it to be in the interests of full time teachers to be enrolled, but we’ve won enrollment for part time teachers working as few as eight class hours per week. On top of this, we’ve also been able to win teachers compensation for their employer’s past failure to enroll as well as subsidies for future enrollment. We are currently campaigning to make the scheme fairer with respect to foreign workers.

After seven years of employment, I have just been notified that my position has been eliminated. I’m not so bothered as I was already thinking of leaving but read about Unemployment Insurance on your website. I don’t think that I am enrolled.

The union has played a very important role in language schools, universities, private schools, and even public schools in making sure that foreign and Japanese workers are enrolled in this vital insurance. We have secured numerous agreements which require employers to enroll all workers working twenty plus hours per week.

Even if you have not been enrolled, the union can play a role in getting your employer to back enroll you (a legal maximum of two years) or negotiating directly with the unemployment insurance office for your enrollment. In the case of those who have worked longer than two years (your benefits increase the longer you pay in), the union has been able to win supplemental payments directly from the employer to cover the loss due to non-enrollment.

To be honest, I’m well-paid, I’m not worried about the future, and after checking, I see that my employer is following all the applicable laws. What I want is money! More money in my pocket every month, and more money to develop myself as a professional teacher.

Improved wages and money for professional development can be quite difficult to obtain. However, if you can succeed in organizing your workmates these benefits are not impossible to win. In workplaces where we have a good percentage of teachers (or groups of teachers) the union has been able to win monthly pay increases and money for professional development. Let’s talk about a strategy in your workplace to help win these demands.

Recently with the drop in student numbers we’re all concerned about potential job losses or cuts in classes and hence our pay as well as worsening of other working conditions. The school hasn’t done anything yet, but wonder how the union could help in the future.

The General Union has been able to win collective agreements with private school employers which deal with your concerns exactly. We call these ‘pre-consultation agreements’ and they require your employer to talk to the union before implementing changes to your working conditions. Some agreements are better worded than others, ranging from ‘must talk’ to ‘should talk’. There are agreements requiring that the agreement of the union be obtained for any changes in working conditions. There are others which merely require that the union be consulted.

The examples in the above FAQ are not guarantees that you’ll be able to win these things, but neither are they pie-in-the-sky. The above questions have been answered using REAL examples from REAL agreements that the union has won with private school employers.

Isn’t it time that you started to get organized to improve and protect your working conditions?