ECC needs to stop fighting against its teachers – the lifeblood of the company – and involve them in making ECC work in the future.
The fact that they are offering nothing (no to pay raises and no to other demands – see more below) at the bargaining table is an indication that ECC is unwilling to change, unwilling to treat employees with dignity, and unwilling to even encourage employees to work hard to make a better company.
If they don’t respect employees enough to take their livelihood into consideration, then how can they expect workers to cooperate to make sure ECC can compete in the future?
It’s ECC’s choice, but they cannot run a school without teachers, and that is exactly what will happen if the teachers refuse to cooperate.
WHAT WE’RE FIGHTING FOR AT ECC
In concrete terms, what are the things that we should be looking for that indicates that ECC is willing to be more cooperative?
What signs are we searching for that show that ECC is offering to take their employees’ livelihoods and dignity into consideration?
1. A REASONABLE PAY RISE FOR 2017 AND 2018
ECC’s current position is that their eikaiwa section is not doing well, so there can be no pay rises for the full time teachers. However, there ARE pay rises for the regular, permanent employees (seishain).
We believe that while their eikaiwa division may not be performing very well financially, this is not expenditure problem.
ECC have a revenue problem, and not giving pay rises does not provide a solution to this issue.
Besides, the say that the eikaiwa section is not doing well, but it’s doing well enough to give a pay rise to seishain?
This group covers many of the managers who should be held responsible for a failing business – but they get a pay rise and teachers get the shaft.
A pay rise should be seen as a natural investment in employees which is used to become more competitive.
This is not a radical or otherwise abnormal idea, especially when you consider the following:
According to a query on the Teikoku Database, ECC Corporation made JPY 1,693,597,000 in profits in 2017, and JPY 1,500,623,000 in 2016.
ECC can afford a pay rise.
If they couldn’t, the seishain wouldn’t get one either.
2. PARITY IN WORKING CONDITIONS
We have two important demands on the table right now; demands that can easily be met by ECC because the money involved, according to ECC, is not very significant.
Of course, there are many other issues that need to be covered in order to win parity with seishain, but how can we get to those if the company won’t even deal with the inexpensive ones?
Again, this is not just about our demands, but about our future treatment.
If we don’t stand up now, we won’t be able to in the future, either.
(A) USE OF HALF-DAY PAID HOLIDAYS
ECC is hesitant to give this right to teachers (meaning you end up using a full day of paid holidays even for an appointment that could be done in just a few hours) because they say it will make substitutions difficult and expensive.
However, in contradiction to this stance, seishain currently have this right.
So, in order to get the ball rolling, the union asked that members in non-teaching roles get these half-day rights for now and we’ll keep talking about the teachers in the future.
Their answer: since they have the same contract as teachers, it would be unfair.
It’s amazing how ECC can use the word “unfair” only when it benefits them.
They admit themselves it would cost nothing, but they still say no.
(B) PAID SPECIAL LEAVE
Seishain at ECC are paid when they need to attend to a funeral, a wedding, the birth of their child, and so on.
Be that as it may, only teachers – both full-time and part-time, and part-time Japanese staff – are expected to deal with these issues with no pay.
(Before the union’s involvement, you didn’t even get special leave days even though it wouldn’t have cost them anything to give unpaid days.)
In fact, according to ECC’s own math, the yearly expense would be about just over half of one full time teacher’s yearly salary.
These are two easy things that the company could give to win members over.
They refuse, however, because they know that their profits are currently based on a multi-tiered system with management at the top and teachers at the bottom.
They refuse because they’re afraid a more equal system means less for them.
We will not have dignity at work without winning more parity in working conditions.
3. PARITY AS A UNION
If we want to maintain and improve working conditions, we all know we need a union! A union which is both open to all, and all that share the benefits, also having to share the costs.
So, what does “parity as a union” mean in concrete terms?
(A) AN OFFICE SUPPLIED BY THE EMPLOYER (AS IS CUSTOM IN JAPAN)
This signifies an employer’s acceptance of a union acting as a bargaining agent of its members.
As a reprisal against the union for winning a pay increase last year, ECC ripped up this agreement and has now refused to pay the rent on the office (which the only reason they pay is because they won’t let us have an office on their premises which would be free).
(B) THE UNFETTERED RIGHT TO ORGANISE A UNION
This right is granted to all of us in the Japanese constitution.
At ECC, we had the right for many years to talk with new employees during orientation about joining the union.
We are a democratic union, open to all – but if we are restricted in our access to new members, we stop being an organisation that welcomes all workers, but a small and weakened group only concerned with ourselves.
Again, ECC unilaterally tore up our agreement because they knew that our type of open, democratic unionism works – and, unfortunately, their tactic had the desired effect.
New membership applications have been cut in half since they oppressed this right.
Giving us access to employees lets new people know that the employer accepts our right to a union and accepts their right to join.
Having an active union in the workplace (especially an “outside” union) signals that the company has little to hide in regards to how it conducts itself in accordance with labor laws and workers’ rights.
However, outting us back out in front of the schools leafleting sends a clear message: “Stay off our property – you are not part of this company”.
(C) A UNION SHOP
If we can not have access to new people, then we must have a system which allows all employees to both share the benefits and the costs of a union.
This is known as a “union shop”.
In the eikaiwa section of ECC, we are almost a majority amongst full time teachers, and everyone benefits when we win something.
Even pay rises for non union-teachers are affected because if they offer too little, then more people will join us.
KEEPING UP THE FIGHT
For many years, we fought hard to win things like dues checkoff, a union office, orientation access, and grievance procedures – all of the things that go into normal labour management relations.
Now, ECC wishes to undermine these things to get in the way of teachers’ rights to a union and collective bargaining.
ECC says they want us all to work together to make ECC a better place to work at.
It’s a nice sentiment, but we should not buy into this thinking, going in naked, while the others around us are enjoying the benefits of a successful company.