Union-led Progress at Nagoya International School

The General Union is currently in a dispute with Nagoya International School over a member who was retaliated against after filing a sexual harassment complaint and declaring union membership. Since then, the Union has engaged in collective bargaining with the school as well as filing a suit against them at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission. This pressure has precipitated changes in the workplace.

Prior to the union’s involvement, Nagoya International School had had many questionable labour practices in addition to the mishandling of the sexual harassment case, but after negotiations with the Union, workers at Nagoya International School have won the following:

  • Teachers no longer having to ask for approval to take paid days off
  • Teachers being informed of their ability to switch to unlimited term contracts to secure a more stable job. Many teachers, with the Union’s help, switched from a limited-term to an unlimited term contract. These teachers no longer have to worry about renewal every year and have more room to raise grievances with the school.
  • More equitable benefits between local and foreign hires, including the housing benefits being based on relocation circumstances rather than on nationality/citizenship.
  • Placement of all school staff on a national health insurance plan and pension plan as required by law by 2023 – teachers, regardless of nationality, are now able to gain benefits like paid maternity leave
  • The biggest progress made due to negotiations was the establishment of a Workplace Allegations Committee and a Workplace Allegation Investigation Team with representation from rank and file staff. It is now more difficult for management to control the outcome of investigations to protect the school’s reputation instead of resolving the issue.
  • The Union has also established a branch specifically for International Schools, with growing membership today, where members can share information on international schools in Japan.

Regardless of this progress, the union still has the case pending at the Osaka Labour Commission as the school is still stubbornly refusing to acknowledge their mismanagement of the member’s sexual harassment case and the subsequent unfair labor practice against her after joining the union despite the following:

  • the Head of School stating on record that the teacher had an excellent evaluation.
  • the teacher enduring, in the workplace, explicit questions about the sexual habits of “Japanese women”, the school-led investigation committee (at the time consisting of three school administrators, including the Head of School) coming to the conclusion that “allegations of sexual harassment were not evidenced”.
  • offering the member a one-year contract with limitations and only if she agreed “not to accuse colleagues without a substantial body of evidence”.

The teacher later appealed this decision to the Board of Directors – the voting members all men with close connections to the Head of School – who unanimously voted that the appeal be dismissed.

This case at NIS shows how institutions cover up sexual harassment and how some international schools often have questionable labor practices, but is ultimately an example of the kind of progress unions can make in the workplace.