In 2020 Japan, like many countries around the world, has been grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The General Union has been in contact with Gaba Corporation about this since February, before the first Learning Studio shutdown.
We have been following up issues of safety and financial security as the situation has developed.
The health and safety of instructors, clients and staff is the top priority for the General Union.
Gaba initially closed all Learning Studios for three weeks, from March 2nd to March 23fd due to safety concerns, and carried out subsequent closures during the following two weekends after the Tokyo government and those of other prefectures called for residents to refrain from going out for nonessential reasons.
Learning Studios are currently closed again due to the declaration of a state of emergency on April 7th.
They are scheduled to reopen on May 7th, although that remains to be seen given Japan’s increasing confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19.
The company has said it will compensate instructors for all of these closures.
There have been issues with Gaba’s handling of the pandemic, but the company deserves credit for compensating instructors without any kind of acrimony between the company and union.
It also deserves credit for closing operations far earlier than other comparable businesses.
During the initial closure, the company published its initiatives in preparation for reopening.
These were not well received by many instructors.
The union ran a survey among instructors, which received 100 responses and 89% of the respondents were unhappy with the measures in place and felt the company was unprepared.
During the period when the company re-opened, the majority of instructors (81.1%, 82.1%, 80%) did not feel safe in the Learning Studios according to three surveys done by the union.
General Union members were continually following up individual safety issues during this time.
The General Union made the following demands surrounding financial security and physical safety and received replies from the company.
Also, 53 instructors signed a petition requesting that the company negotiate in good faith with the union on the current issues.
Gaba will not disadvantage in any way (including discipline, belting, contract renewal, etc.) instructors who, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, choose to cancel booked lessons and/or choose not to submit lessons.
Answer: If our instructors wish to cancel lessons already booked due to the fear of COVID-19, we are accepting it when it is applied upon the predetermined procedures.
We are also considering for instructors not to be treated disadvantageously only due to the cancellation based on the reason above mentioned.
In addition, in judging each case, it will be considered taking the situation of each instructor into account and avoiding just doing it automatically.
There exists no restriction for instructors to abstain from submitting lessons on his/her own decision.
It is normal upon the contract between our company and the instructor and has nothing to do with COVID-19.
Since instructors had a three-week period with no lessons, have had March 28th and 29th lessons cancelled, and will probably have more time off due to further COVID-19 related shutdowns, lesson numbers will not be usual.
Even when Learning Studios are open, lesson demand is also likely to decline.
Gaba will not unbuckle or unbelt instructors due to low lesson count during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Answer: We will not intervene into the decisions of instructors regarding the number of the availability of lesson every month and will never “drive or blame” them due to decrease of the number of lesson.
We see a difference between Japanese and English on this issue and the case where the requirement to maintain the belt status is not met due to the decrease of the number of the lesson offered is written in English. As written in 1. above, the situation related to COVID-19 will be taken into account when judging the belt status.
Gaba will provide remuneration to instructors who are not allowed access to the LS schedules due to a total company shutdown, limited shutdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak at a LS, individual sickness, or any other reason related to COVID-19.
The remuneration will be the higher of the two options below:
A ) Full lesson rate for instructor’s booked lessons closed as a result of LS closure
B ) Payment system used during the recent three-week closure (March 2,2020- March 22,2020)
As we have seen a drop in lesson demand during the COVID-19 outbreak this method is fair for all instructors to guarantee basic financial security.
Answer: We have already told instructors that at least the pay for booked lessons will be paid when the LS is shut down temporarily due to COVID-19 in the LS.
We are now closing LSs voluntarily but have already told the instructors as follows;
(1) A= The average monthly pay from 2019 Dec. to 2020 Feb. / number of days worked x 0.8
(2) B=A x number of days when LS is closed in April
(3) B will be paid for April.
Gaba will require all clients (including FM clients) to wear face masks while in the LS. This will be checked when clients enter the LS and also during lessons.
During the March 23-March 27 reopening there were many cases of clients not wearing or removing masks during lessons, or wearing damaged masks that do not provide any protection.
Gaba’s Letter of Understanding states that LS staff are solely responsible for dealing with concerns about client health and suitability to take lessons, therefore LS staff will regularly patrol during lessons to ensure masks are worn.
If clients refuse, they will be asked to leave the Learning Studio immediately.
Gaba will also remove any negative evaluations from clients for lessons where clients fail to follow Gaba’s rules or create a risk in any way.
Clients who are unable to wear masks for medical reasons will be asked not to attend Gaba lessons until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Answer: Although we have now closed Learning Studios, during the period they were open, we accepted clients who came to Learning Studios without a mask only if they agreed to wear a mask we provided.
As shown in the image below, Gaba will place a printout of its current lesson rules, currently displayed at the front desk and in booths of some Learning Studios, in every lesson booth of every Learning Studio, with the rule about wearing a mask highlighted.
Answer: We have now closed Learning Studios. We will examine about the post in the lesson booth by the time of re-opening.
Gaba will confirm that clients are not suffering from symptoms of COVID-19.
As some clients may fail to provide accurate information, the company will implement a strict method of checking client temperatures before being allowed into the Lesson Booth.
There has been at least one report of a client telling an instructor they may have COVID-19 and many reports of dry coughing that worried instructors.
Gaba will measure clients’ temperatures with an infrared thermometer. This is quick and safe.
Answer: As we have closed LSs now, we will examine how to confirm that our clients are free from COVID-19 by the time of re-opening.
Gaba will cooperate fully with instructors in providing information in cases of suspected infection in the Learning Studios.
Answer: As the company is responsible for consideration of safety in the facilities, we will not ask for the cooperation of instructors in collecting the information related to COVID-19 basically.
If the instructor feels any anxiety, please consult with staff in LS.
In the interest of everyone’s health and safety, Gaba will tell clients that if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 they should inform the company as soon as possible, and Gaba will immediately inform instructors who have taught them.
Answer: When it is found that any person related to our company is infected by the novel coronavirus, designated infectious disease, we will be notified it by the health centre.
Once notified, we will close the LS immediately and share this information to instructors who have the possibility of high-risk contact person.
However, the name of the person infected will not disclosed unless there are special circumstances.
Gaba will compensate any instructor who contracted COVID-19 after returning to work from March 23 for their medical costs and lost income.
Answer: As written in our answer dated March 19th, if our instructor is infected by the novel coronavirus, some part or all of medical costs is paid by the central or local government because the novel coronavirus is among the designated infectious diseases.
However, this policy may be changed in the future so we hope everyone to check the most recent information.
If any of other damages is recognized to be attributable to our company, we will make a decision case by case.
If instructors are infected in the learning studios, Gaba will compensate instructors for failing to provide a safe and healthy workspace while providing the contracted service.
Answer: We understand that it is substantially the same with 9., above.
If the infection is recognized to be attributable to our company, we will make a decision case by case.
Gaba will open all Learning Studio windows that can physically be opened.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, “Places where outbreaks occur tend to be: poorly ventilated; spaces where people gather closely together; places where an unspecified number of people are likely to come into contact.”
Under normal circumstances temperature, wind or pollen can be reasons to keep these closed.
These are not normal circumstances.
Answer: It depends on each LS whether or not it is possible to open the window.
We know that it was impossible to open the window under the instruction of the building management company at some LSs.
We told LS to open the window if possible.
The General Union looks forward to meeting with GABA management soon to discuss more union demands and concerns.