The ultimate ECC mediation FAQ: What is mediation, anyways??

Jul 22, 2015

2. What is the Labor Commission?

It’s a government entity that deals with relations between workers and companies. Unions can sue employers for violations of the Trade Union Law or ask for mediation services. It’s all free and while most companies use a lawyer, the union has enough expertise to not require one for most cases.

3. So what’s the big deal about ECC accepting?

Two things. First is that they have always refused mediation with us in the past Your offer of either mediation OR strike made them accept.

The second big deal is that they could have maintained their hard-line NO all the way up until we struck, but they didn’t. We know now that they ARE concerned about not only our planned strike, but of more strikes after that. They are looking for a way out and mediation has given them that opportunity. Of course, they’ll be looking to settle on their terms, but that’s natural and we’ll be trying to settle on our terms. That’s normal, too.

4. Is this mediation binding?

No. ECC could have refused to accept without any repercussions, but they didn’t. The mediators also don’t have the power to order/force either party to do anything. The union and ECC are both free to drop out of mediation at any time.

5. Isn’t ECC just wasting time and stalling the strike?

Maybe. But there are better ways to waste time and stall the strike than to go embarrass themselves in front of government officials. Let’s at least give them credit for being smart and knowing more devious ways. Remember, if their goal was to waste time they didn’t have to wait for the union to apply for mediation, they could have done that themselves, or they could have waited till right before the strike date and made some proposal that would have made us wonder whether we should put off the strike and put it to the members. We’re sure you can think of a lot of other ways they could waste time, too.

In the union’s experience most companies do not accept mediation without a clear intention of mediating. In fact, a prerequisite to accepting is that you’re willing to negotiate. So let’s give them a chance and mostly, show all the employees that the union will not be the ones to blame.

And if they are stalling a strike, we’ll still go on and strike them. Remember, we picked our strike date because it was a good date to apply pressure, but we also had other dates in mind. They can’t escape a strike forever, so just wasting time will only win them the ire of union members.

6. So now what happens?

We go to the mediation and talk to ECC. If they have a proposal, we will bring it back to the branch for discussion. If mediation breaks down, we will continue with the strike action. Remember, the strike is not cancelled and we have not withdrawn our notice.

7. Will we go on strike even if we’re still mediating by the strike date?

Going on strike will happen if mediation breaks down before the strike date. If we’re still talking and a mediation meeting is scheduled for after the planned strike date it means that things are still going forward and therefore we won’t want to go on strike then.

8. Can I attend the mediation meetings?

Yes. Please stay tuned for information on when they will be.

9. What’s taking so long?

A strike at ECC will affect schools in multiple prefectures, not just Osaka and Aichi. So the Central Labor Commission in Tokyo is currently planning the logistics of our case, including where and when mediation will be held.

10. Where will mediation be held?

It could be held in either Tokyo or Osaka, but since the GU and ECC both requested for it to be held in Osaka, it’ll probably be in Osaka. Even if the Central Labour Commission does deal with the mediation, it could still be held in Osaka through their Kansai office.

11. How long will mediation take?

We don’t know, but it’s usually once, twice, or maybe three times over the course of a few weeks, but either side can break it off at any time.

12. When will I know if we’re going on strike?

According to our collective agreement with ECC, we need to give 48 hours notice before a strike. So members will know at least 48 hours in advance. Of course, we’ll try to give more notice than that if we can, and we’ll also try to keep members up to date on the progress of mediation to minimize surprises.

13. If mediation goes past our planned strike date, is the strike cancelled?

No. If mediation does not produce a favorable result for us, a strike should still go ahead as members gave the union a strike mandate as of 1 July 2015. We may have to tweak the days (as you don’t walk out of mediation IF mediation is going well just to stay on plan), but if there is no movement in mediation there will be a strike save for a dramatic change in members’ positions.

14. How will a strike be prevented?

If ECC gives us an offer and members vote to accept it, the dispute is over and we will not go on strike.

15. Why wouldn’t we go on strike?

We wouldn’t go on strike if we can win, through talking, something that members can accept. Remember, a union victory without a strike shows you have real power.

16. So what is a victory?

At present, ECC does not even recognise your right to negotiate wages collectively through the union of your choice. This means that there are many levels of victory, but the main thing we must win this time is to force ECC to negotiate a minimum amount for everyone with the union. We’re not only here for this one year and building on victories is important in our move forward.


In the end, the members will judge what that victory is.