Berlitz Workers Break 30-year Pay Freeze

Mar 24, 2024 ,

2023 negotiations with Berlitz saw workers receiving a substantial pay increase for the first time in over 30 years. The 2.5% raise is a breakthrough in the private language school industry, where workers in General Union’s workplace branches have struggled for years to get their companies to agree to even 1%. 

Initially submitted as a demand for a 5% raise in March 2023, Berlitz members were open to negotiations. However, the end of the fiscal year is a difficult time to make financial demands to a company, and it wasn’t until June that true negotiations began.

Berlitz branch members were open to negotiations, of course – considerations were made for the possibility of a lump-sum one-time inflation bonus, or an increased number of paid days off. However, the company’s continued insistence that Berlitz was too deep in the red to offer a raise was not good enough for the branch to let up on the demand.

“Berlitz Japan is so heavily in debt that it will be years if they come out of it – if they ever do.” General Union countered. “How long can the company continue to use this as an excuse for not raising employee wages?”

General Union went on the offense in September and October, distributing leaflets in front of Learning Centers (LCs) to raise awareness of the issue.

Finally, on October 30th, the company responded favorably:

“From January 18, 2024, we offer a 2% base-up to all employees based on their current base rate or per lesson rate. In addition to the base up we will also be offering employees performance-based increases in line with their overall evaluation and Company performance. This is the first time since the early 1990s that the Company is offering employees a base up.”

However, 2% was not acceptable to the branch – thorough discussion and research from the members had evidenced that LC closures had caused expense reductions, while business performance was the same or better than at the same time last year. Further, the company was planning to raise prices slightly. 

“The best we can do is 2.5%,” stated Senior HR Manager Michael Mullen during collective bargaining on November 7th. “I don’t know how customers will react to the tuition increase – it will depend on customer response.”

“We will need your answer by the end of the month.” Mullen finished.

With a slightly higher offer and time against them, the branch agreed to the 2.5% increase. A collective agreement confirming this was signed January 25, 2024.

We’ve won a historic increase at Berlitz, but we’re not done yet: Berlitz General Union has submitted their demands for 2024 at the beginning of March. With the cost of living continuing to rise, a further 5% pay rise is at the very top of the list.