GABA: Union Demands More Transparency Over COVID-19 Concerns

Jul 14, 2020 ,

The General Union has learned that a client from Gaba Corporation’s Jiyugaoka Learning Studio (LS) passed away from COVID-19.

Gaba Corporation has not communicated this to instructors, regular staff, or anyone else.

According to the WHO guidelines used by Japan’s Public Health Centers, people should be traced from two days before the onset of disease.

Regardless of these guidelines, the company should have informed instructors and all staff of what occurred, especially as it was already aware of the Omotesando case.

It is unacceptable to just ignore what happened and not tell anyone.

The GU has been following up COVID-19 related issues since February. There was a previously known COVID-19 case of a client at Omotesando LS which Gaba refused to tell instructors about.

The company informed all regular employees and posted an article on their website in Japanese, but no notice was published on the “My Gaba for Instructors” system used by instructors, nor were any instructors outside of Omotesando LS notified.

Instructors heard about the case on the grapevine, which is just unacceptable for something of this importance. 

The GU received unsatisfactory responses from the company stating that it had no plans to tell instructors about the Omotesando case. The union published these answers online, as transparency is essential in a pandemic, and if the company is not prepared to share information the union will:

On June 15th the union sent Gaba a list of questions regarding the Jiyugaoka case.

The company refused to answer, because it was displease that the union had published its previous answer, where the company stated its intention to not tell instructors about cases of COVID-19.

The situation with COVID-19 is the most important problem Gaba Corporation has faced since its founding in 1995.

The current pandemic involves both financial risk and physical danger that is ongoing – but can be mitigated by prudent actions on the part of the company.

Transparency is one of these actions.

Given that Gaba Corporation has stubbornly resisted sharing information even inside the company; and what information has circulated among instructors has often been on informal grapevines that not everyone has access to.

The union feels that it has no choice but to provide information publicly so that as many people as possible could be aware of the situation.

Fortunately, the Omotesando and Jiyugaoka cases apparently did not cause a cluster to form at either Gaba Learning Studio. Both of them took place during a brief two week reopening.

Since the end of the state of emergency Gaba has an open-ended reopening, so any further infections will have more time to spread in an LS, which are a textbook definition of the “Three C’s”: 

1.Closed spaces with insufficient ventilation

2.Crowded conditions with people

3.Conversations in short distance

Given these physical realities at Gaba, where instructors teach one-to-one lessons while sitting immediately next to clients in lesson booths, it is essential that the company promptly and transparently communicates information about COVID-19 infections.

For the company to not disclose cases to all instructors, or to not disclose to any instructors at all, or to only disclose to regular employees, is placing us all at risk.

A lack of transparency is simply unacceptable.

The company must do better, for the safety of everyone and the General Union will continue to demand that they do better. 

The General Union has learned that a client from Jiyugaoka LS passed away from COVID-19. The client’s last lessons were on March 31st during Gaba’s two week reopening. The client developed a fever at 05:20 on April 3 and was admitted to hospital three days later. The client passed away on April 23rd. This client was a public figure, so there were news stories about their death. Gaba staff knew about it.

The unanswered questions sent to Gaba Corporation as of June 15, 2020:

1. Was Gaba contacted by a health center for contact tracing?

2. If not, did Gaba contact a health center to volunteer information?

3. If not, why not?

4. Did Gaba inform employees of this case in an Operational Bulletin?

5. If not, why not?

6. Did Gaba post a notice on its public website about this?

7. If not, why not?

8. Did Gaba inform Jiyugaoka instructors and the instructor who taught the final lesson about this?

9. If not, why not?

10. Will Gaba inform instructors as a whole about this case?

11. If not, why not?

12. There is some confusion on the rules about face shields. Gaba’s infection control policy document says “instructors and counselors are encouraged to wear a face shield”, but the MGI post from May 29 says: “Face shields will also be supplied which instructors will be required to wear during lessons.” Which is correct?

13. Has Gaba provided sufficient face shields for counselors and other LS staff?

14. Will instructors who do not wear a face shield be refused access to the Learning Studio or disciplined?

15. If face shields are mandatory, will Gaba remove any negative evaluations associated with them and the difficulties with teaching in them?

16. Has Gaba considered hanging a plastic sheet in booths so separate instructors and clients?

17. Has Gaba considered placing an alcohol cleaner spray pack in each booth?