As prefectures across Japan leave the state of emergency, Gaba Corporation is reopening its Learning Studios, and the union hopes for the best.
However, it is concerned about something that has come to light and the company’s response to it: The company avoided telling instructors about a COVID-19 case that occurred at the company.
After responsibly closing down for three weeks from the start of March (and compensating instructors despite no legal obligation to do so, as Gaba instructors are all currently subcontractors outside of Labor Standards Law), Gaba decided to re-open for two weeks in the middle of the pandemic.
On April 1st (2020), a Gaba client suffering from COVID-19 took lessons at Omotesando LS.
On April 15th, Gaba was informed of the client’s diagnosis.
On April 15th and 16th, the Instructor Support Leader (ISL) from that LS spoke to instructors. The ISL did not communicate the fact that instructors and other LS staff had been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The ISL simply asked vague questions about the current situation and instructors’ conditions. The ISL did not send emails or leave messages, and it was not possible to return calls to the ISL due to LS phones being set to not ring.
On April 20th, Gaba notified all employees of the COVID-19 case with an Operational Bulletin, and published a notice in Japanese on the company website (See: https://www.gaba.co.jp/news/oshirase200420.html).
No instructors were informed.
On April 21st, the ISL finally sent an email to Omotesando instructors informing them that there had been a COVID-19 case at their workplace, and on the 22nd the ISL called them.
The ISL did not inform instructors which of them had taught the lesson with the infected client. This caused great stress and worry as clients do not always follow the guidelines about masks and safety.
Various instructors at Gaba contacted ISLs and Area Managers who confirmed that there would be no general notification of instructors.
This is worrying considering that all regular Gaba staff were notified, not to mention everyone who checked Gaba’s Japanese website.
As we return to work, clear and transparent information about any future COVID-19 cases or any other safety issues is essential.
Suffice to say, the GU corresponded with Gaba about this issue.
Here are the union’s questions and Gaba’s formal answers:
1) Why were the instructors not informed on April 15th?
As we published on our official website, it was on the night of April 15th at night that we were informed by our client: “Infected by COVID-19 and it may affect your company.” However, it was April 17th when we received the formal information from the Public Health Center in charge of the LS. We did not have information ready to disclose on April 15th.
2) Why did it take five days to notify employees and publish a notice on the website?
The Public Health Center asked for us to have them check the contents of publication in writing. It was April 20th when the confirmation was done and we published.
3) Why were Omotesando instructors not notified until April 22nd?
The Publish Health Center told us that there would be no possibility of spreading of infection after checking our report. So, we judged that it would be no problem to tell our instructors at the usual timing.
4) We understand there are issues with client confidentiality. However, public health and Gaba’s duty of care to workers is a higher priority. Why were Omotesando instructors not told which instructor had the lesson with the infected client?
We are requested by the Public Health Center to secure the privacy of the client as much as possible. We were concerned that the information such as lesson time or the name of the instructor might result in specifying the client. Therefore, we did not inform such information.
5) The company notified all employees. Considering that instructors interact with each other in a variety of situations and the potential risks, why did Gaba not notify all instructors of the situation at the company?
We gave the minimum information to our employees in charge of safety management in the premise for the case when they get inquiry from outside of the company but it is not the case of instructors. We hope you understand the difference in the position between employees and instructors.
6) When will Gaba publish the information about the case on MGI?
We have no plan to publish this case on our site for instructors.
7) Will Gaba communicate further cases of COVID-19 to all instructors?
If any person related to our company is found infected, we will judge case by case based on the situation and the instruction of the Public Health Center.
8) Have there been any other confirmed or unconfirmed cases of COVID-19 among clients, staff, instructors or any other people related to the company in any way?
We will not disclose such uncertain information that we cannot confirm by ourselves.