Securing Rights at Last
In mid-December, a union member employed at the Canadian Embassy received an ‘Employment Insurance Certificate’ from the Shinagawa Public Employment Security Office. Issued on December 12, 2023, the certificate confirmed eligibility dating back over two years, aligning with the member’s start at the Embassy. This was referred to as ‘retroactive enrollment,’ and the accompanying ‘Notice of Confirmation of Eligibility, etc.’ indicated it was issued ‘ex officio.’
This emphasizes that due to the Embassy’s failure to promptly adhere to the Public Employment Security Office’s instructions for enrollment, the Security Office exercised its authority to enroll the member in unemployment insurance. They have now secured this right and are in the process of completing their application for childcare leave benefits that accompany this entitlement.
Taking Direct Initiative at the Public Employment Security Office
The Embassy continually refused both the union and the member’s requests for employment insurance enrollment and collective bargaining, stating, “We will follow Japanese Law, but we will decide what to do on our own terms.”
In collaboration with the union, the member (a foreign national – but hired as local staff, i.e., non-diplomatic staff) began preparing the necessary documents for submission and visited the employment security office independently, as only the individual can complete such a procedure. Their eligibility was confirmed, leading to the aforementioned securing of their rights. The union member took action alongside the union despite the Embassy’s constant refusals to win their rights.
Significant Changes in the Workplace
The enrollment of this union member in employment insurance isn’t solely an individual matter. It signifies the recognition by the Japanese government of the Canadian Embassy as an “employment insurance-covered workplace.” Consequently, in accordance with the Employment Insurance Act, all locally hired workers at the Canadian Embassy working 20-plus weekly hours will be enrolled in the Employment Insurance system. All eligible employees will be retroactively enrolled, and the Embassy will receive a bill for their Employment Insurance premiums. The efforts of this single union member are transforming the entire workplace.
Moving Towards Collective Bargaining
The Public Insurance Security Office’s decision definitely challenges the Embassy’s assertion that they aren’t obliged to adhere to Japanese law and, therefore, not obligated to engage in collective bargaining. In the near future, we will meet with representatives of the Canadian Embassy at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission. As before, we will continue to assert that “foreign embassies are also obligated to comply with the Trade Union Act in regard to locally hired staff.”