The ECC Branch of the General Union – the single largest workplace branch in the General Union – has voted to go on strike after ECC’s management repeatedly rejected workers’ demands centered on employee health, pay, and mandatory “holiday make-up” workdays.
The vote was held after a spirited two-hour, all-member meeting Sunday, August 30th. The broad sentiment of attendees was that ECC failed to show sympathy or even fairness for its employees at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is endangering teachers’ health as well as creating classroom chaos with unclear and unpopular policies.
From the list of demands ranging from long commute allowances to fair treatment of non-limited term contract workers, the leading demand of unionized teachers is the abolition of extra workdays that teachers are required to do to “make up” for national holidays that fall on their normal workdays.
Known among teachers as “EQ Days,” they have long been regarded by the union as unnecessary and not in-line with the spirit of national holidays in Japan. What makes these days even more unfair is the fact that only some teachers are required to work – the newest contract types only. ECC has answered that Japanese staff also must work these days so it is fair – to which the union responded, “No one should have to lose their national holidays.”
In 2019, the GU ECC Branch performed a survey of union members as well as non-members who work EQ Days, and 93% of respondents stated that they wished that the entire system would be gotten rid of.
Since 2020, the ongoing health crisis has highlighted – but not defined – ECC’s general indifference toward employee health. This is disheartening because ECC has shown admirable cooperation regarding worker health circumstances at other times. The union made a demand to prevent teachers from facing contract non-renewal for unpaid sick days. If anything, it is a quality of life improvement that probably will not affect ECC’s day to day management. Nonetheless, this was too much of an ask from ECC!
Given ECC’s refusal to budge on quality of life and worker health-based demands, it is all the more frustrating that the company flatly refused to grant any pay increases for the 2021-22 year. ECC has only promised to continue its system of annual contract completion bonuses for a segment of its workers. When asked if the company continues to pay bonuses and pay increases to regular “seishain” employees the company declined to answer. A refusal to answer such an impactful question speaks volumes.
All we have to say to that is, “if ECC won’t recognize its teachers’ hard work now, will they recognize it when those same teachers are on strike?”