While the General Union and the company HAD been making some headway towards a potential compromise (with the two parties even having met on June 20th), the president of ECC abruptly decided to rescind all offers of compromise, forcing his employees to respond with a second strike, and therefore closing many classes to ECC students both young and old.
SPIN ‘TILL YOU WIN
On the day of the strike, union members in all three ECC three areas got together and took a vote in favor of continuing with strike action until ECC fairly and respectfully dealt with our demands.
How did the company react to our attempts to restore good faith? They wrote to students proclaiming that the union was being “unreasonable” and was only going on strike because the company had refused to capitulate to all of the unions demands.
Taking a leaf out of the “Spin ‘Till You Win” PR play-book, they essentially attempted to paint a picture of the union throwing a tantrum because it couldn’t get 100% of everything that it wanted, with ECC taking a steady, parental hand to keep this petulant child in check.
The reality, of course, is a different story: the union had been working hard to remain as amicable and tactful as possible, and had been deeply involved with attempting to work out a reasonable compromise with the company long before the present the strike action even begun.
It wasn’t the General Union who decided to end the discussion.
At ECC, pay-rises are traditionally solely based upon an evaluation system. Over the years, pay increases have declined overall, and instructors have lost all faith in a system that it as bias as it is rigged; a system in which the people who evaluate you for a pay-rise are also the SAME people who actually have to pay that increase should they decide you deserve it.
Suffice to say, there is a conflict-of-interest at play that does not benefit the employee.
Two years ago, the General Union was successful in halting a general pay-rise freeze. However, in reaction to that, pay-rises were instead cut in half: one part became an evaluated increase in the hourly wage, and the other half turned into a non-cumulative, one-time pay-bonus payment.
This means that, overall, our pay has fallen behind.
IN ADDITION TO THIS…
According to Engel’s Law – an economic observation which theorises that the more that one spends on food, the harder it is to get by – Japan’s living standards have fallen since 2012.
Between 2012 and 2015, the amount of money that people in Japan spend on food has increased from 23.5% to 25%. This rise owes much to the three-point increase in the sales tax, and the drop in the value of the Japanese yen (which also drives up the price of importing food stuffs).
During the same period, the average wages for “regular workers” rose by only 1.7%, while the consumer price index rose by 3.9% – all of which meaning that the real wages (factoring in consumer price index (CPI) changes and inflation) saw a decrease of 4.6%. (all data is from the June 25th (2016) edition of the Japan Times: “Restaurants slash prices and frills and living standards in Japan drop“)
Our ECC members are not “regular workers” and, on average, such “irregular workers” earn only 70% of what a “regular worker” makes.
Our members have decided that the only way that they can now receive a fair wage increase is to seek an end to the unilateral evaluation system, negotiate a pay-rise through their union, and seek a balanced compromise with the company.
While no one really wants to strike, and while we would all prefer to negotiated a settlement to this issue with words rather than actions, we are just as ready to fight might with might should ECC decide that we are “too much trouble” to bother speaking with and force our hand.