The union has put out a lot of information on this topic and if you are at a university, this article will be the most helpful for you. This article is aimed more at those working in non-university jobs like: eikaiwas; private elementary, and junior and senior high schools; kindergartens, dispatched ALTs. If you are a direct hire ALT at a public board of education or a JET, this article does not apply to you.
How do you qualify for a unlimited term contract (UTC)?
Simply put and thinking of those on one-year contracts; you can apply for an UTC after you start your sixth year of employment. At this point you fill in the application, submit it to your employer, and the employer must accept it and starting in the seventh year must give you an UTC with no disadvantageous changes or no changes that you haven’t agreed to.
But will my employer flip out when I apply?
Our experience is that most employers have no problem giving you an UTC once you apply. They might ask you to fill out a company/school specific form as opposed to the one on our website, but this is not a big deal.
Many of our members have found peace of mind in making through the application through the union and you are also welcome to do this if you are a member.
How will this protect by working conditions
Article 8 of the Labour Contract Law, the law which introduced UTCs, prohibits the change of working conditions during the life of the employment contract. Once you apply and once you receive your UTC, the employer cannot change working conditions without your agreement.
The General Union, through the Labour Bureau, is now testing the boundaries of this article. At Kawai Juku where a member had a reduction in classes at the change of the academic year, the Labour Bureau has so far given oral guidance to the employer stating that this is a violation of article 8.
While we don’t think that article 8 will easily stop every change; for one, the Labour Contract Law has no enforcement agency and therefore we have to rely on guidance for the Labour Bureau or the courts in cases where the law is not followed. We do believe though that through negotiation and discussion of this law with employers, and good old fashioned labour disputes where necessary, we can enforce this law ourselves.
I’ve heard that employers are doing tricky things to make UTCs unappealing
Yes, some are.
At ECC, the company changed the working regulations so that those on unlimited term contracts are not eligible for yearly pay increases. Also at ECC, and some universities, employers are putting in retirement ages in for for those with UTCs but not those on limited term contracts.
Regardless of this, we feel that you are always safer with an unlimited term contract, and the changes above, we feel that we will be able to beat. How you ask?
- The Labour Contract Law itself bans changes in working conditions at the point of conversion from a limited term contract to a UTC.
- Equal Pay for Equal Work laws are supposed t prevent this kind of discrimination between different categories of workers (UTC vs unlimited term contract workers)
We have already started discussions with both the regional Labour Bureaus and the ministry over these points.
Also, as union members, you have the chance to negotiate and dispute decisions by your employer.
Hope this article was helpful and please write to us with any questions at https://generalunion.org/consult/