Amongst full time teachers this has resulted in the return of Saturday classes, as well as pressure on even foreign teachers on one year contracts to take on time consuming responsibilities such as home-room teacher positions. While teachers have traditionally enjoyed more free-time than many groups of workers, for example in the summer breaks, this has been dramatically reduced at many schools and is under continual attack. It is not unusual for full-time teachers to be work throughout the summer break period.
The situation with unpaid overtime has become so bad that one General Union member working in a private high-school reported that the Labour Standard’s bureau had launched an investigation into his school over unpaid overtime.
Another member graphically described the kind of working conditions of young teachers at his school. “One of the young full-timers was sick this week, but still at school, dead on her feet and unable to talk… Her schedule is 25 classes per week plus Saturdays and this is not unusual for the Japanese full-timers this year. She comes to school at 7 a.m. and leaves at 9 p.m. every day, putting in between 60 and 70 hours per week. She won’t take any of her paid annual leave and only had three days holiday in total last year. She earns ¥2 million a year… I think her hourly rate is not much more than 500 yen.”
It is arguable whether imposing such conditions on teachers will do much to help the survival prospects of the school. It certainly does little to promote the quality of education in the school.
While full-time teachers are under increasing pressure to work all hours part-time teachers are facing cuts in the number of classes and hence their income. It is not unusual for teachers to turn up for work at the beginning of the school year in April to find that their school doesn’t have any classes for them this year. In other schools management has taken the opportunity to cut the hourly rates that they pay for classes. In one case that the General Union is negotiating right now management are attempting to halve the hourly rate.
While as a union we have had a number of successes in maintaining the pay and conditions of our existing members we believe that a wider campaign of organizing in the schools is necessary to stop management attacks. For this reason the general union will be organizing an open session at its October general meeting aimed at workers in elementary, junior high and high schools, to discuss the situation in the schools. The meeting will be open to all and not limited to General Union members. We would ask all GU branches and members in the schools to make a special effort to ensure a big turnout for this meeting, come along and bring your colleagues too. A leaflet is being prepared for the meeting. If you want copies to distribute please let the General Union office know details of how many you need and where we should send them to.