Special Dispatching News

12月 3, 2008

The falling birth-rate with a corresponding reduction in the number of university age students has hit the less prestigious private universities, junior colleges and women’s universities particularly hard. Outsourcing has been used as a way of cutting costs. However, it is not limited to these institutions. Even a university such as Ritsumeikan, which is not so severely affected by the falling school rolls has introduced dispatch teachers at new schools and faculties. At universities like Mukogawa Joshi Dai (Mukogawa Women’s University) cost cutting is probably the major factor. However, other factors can sometimes be involved. Outsourcing may provide employers with more flexibility. It is easier to increase or reduce the number of dispatch teachers than to employ new teachers or “let go” existing employees. In addition in some universities it may result in a strengthening of the administration’s hand in relation to faculty. Why is the General Union opposed to dispatching? Cost savings made are largely at the expense of employees’ pay and conditions. Generally speaking pay rates and working conditions are worse for the dispatch teachers and the office staff who administer them than for their directly employed equivalents. Dispatching means a reduction of income and even loss of employment for some of our members. It introduces a fresh barrier to the unity of workers working in the same workplace, between dispatched and directly employed, in addition to the existing divisions between part-time, full-time, tenured and contract teachers. What does dispatching mean for education? We believe that the trend towards dispatching will lead to a decline in the quality of education provided. It is driven not by concern for maintaining and improving the quality of education but a desire to reduce costs. There are excellent, highly qualified and motivated teachers employed both directly by institutions and by dispatch companies. However, conditions are generally better for directly hired teachers. As a result these teachers tend, on average, to be more experienced and better qualified. Many universities, such as Ritsumeikan, require that all new part-time teachers have a master’s degree. They do not have the same requirement for teachers supplied by the dispatch company. The replacement of existing teachers is likely to have a detrimental rather than beneficial effect on the quality of classes. A further problem is that the legal basis on which dispatching is conducted often limits the power of the institution to control classes. Assessment can sometimes be a problem. There have been instances where, to comply with Education Ministry guidelines, a grade is given by a directly employed teacher who has no actual contact with the students as the classes concerned are taught by dispatch teachers. Why does the GU demand the direct employment of dispatch teachers? The General Union is a labour union that fights to defend the interests of all employees. It is not a union limited to one section of the workforce. The General Union is opposed to dispatching for the reasons outlined above. However, once dispatching has been introduced it poses the question concretely what should be done about it. In the present climate very few workers are in a position to pick and choose their jobs. For many a dispatch job may offer the only chance to get daytime work that will allow them to spend time with their families. It is also quite natural for teachers to want to get experience that will get them better jobs in the future. Indeed many presently employed university teachers once worked for companies now doing the dispatching, before they got their “foot in the door”. We do not believe this shows any desire by dispatch teachers to “trample on” directly employed teachers and take their jobs. In a sense we are all competing against each other for the jobs available but the whole point of a union is to limit that competition. In many, possibly most, cases dispatch teachers have not even directly replaced existing employees. Many dispatch teachers understand quite well that a reduction in the number of better-paying directly employed positions will make it more difficult for them to get better jobs in the future. While we are opposed to outsourcing we have never called for union members or others to refuse to take jobs at dispatching companies. In short we do not regard dispatch teachers as the enemy or “scabs” or anything like that. In this situation, while we want to see an end to dispatching we do not support the dismissal of existing teachers, whether they are directly employed or dispatched. On the contrary we demand that the institution take responsibility for its past employment policies and employ these teachers directly. In some ways this is analogous to the situation with existing part-time university teachers when a university introduces a requirement that they have a master’s degree. We would be opposed to the dismissal of existing teachers in this situation. Basically the General Union is only in a position to represent the interests of its members, and we will fight against their dismissal whether they are directly employed or dispatched. If you are not a member yet now is the time to join! Do dispatch teachers want to be directly employed? There are situations when the dispatch teachers may not be interested in becoming directly employed. For example in cases where they have only very few classes at a particular institution and most of their classes are arranged by the dispatching company elsewhere. However, there are other situations where dispatch teachers are completely dependent on the classes provided at one educational institution. In situations like this it is likely that dispatch teachers would welcome the chance to become directly employed. By raising the demand for the institution to employ these teachers the union branch can gain their sympathy and support, striking a blow against dispatching and helping to reduce the future threat to the jobs of directly employed teachers. Why do we need unity? The experience of unions in Japan and elsewhere has shown that a union that bases itself on narrow sectional interests is ultimately a weak union. Dispatching is aimed at worsening working conditions and strengthening the hand of employers against their workforce. It has adverse affects not only for those teachers losing work as a result of its introduction but for all of us. To win this battle, those most affected must reach out to win the support of all sections of the workforce. We should not fall in the trap set by the employers and mistakenly regard the dispatch teachers as our enemy. There should be no “us” and “them” between directly hired and dispatch teachers and between Japanese and non-Japanese teachers. from December 2008 National Union Voice