Fighting for Unlimited Term Contracts: GU takes International Learning Center to Court

The General Union has taken International Learning Center (ILC) to court after ILC suddenly changed our members fifth contract to non-renewable, thus disqualifying him from an unlimited term contract. After 4 consecutive renewable contracts, ILC has stopped our member from having the job security that comes with an unlimited term contract. Our member from ILC gave their statement to the court on their last court date. In his statement we can see the effect this decision of ILC has had on our member.

“Your Honor, ladies, gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to make this statement. I shall be brief, and let me say that I wish to thank all those who showed up today to hear this case – all legal professionals, supporters, and observers in solidarity, as well as the lawyers representing us, Ms. Sadaoka and Mr. Murasumi.

To start with, please let me provide some information and personal history concerning the events of this case. After five and a half years working in Japan as an educator, I joined ILC as a full-time teacher in April 2018. The position involved me being dispatched to multiple vocational college locations in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures to teach both general and specialist English classes as a dispatched teacher. Except for one major change in working conditions in my fourth year; a cut from five days per week to four days per week with a subsequent change in salary, there were no changes in my working conditions. I had one year contracts throughout and my first four contracts stated clearly that renewal was possible. Then, to my surprise, there was an addition of a clause in my fifth annual contract confirming that it would be non-renewable after its scheduled conclusion in March 2023.

Now, I wish to make it clear that I bear my employer, ILC absolutely no ill will. The Osaka and Kansai region-based staff and executives have always been reliable and helpful colleagues, and I am aware they placed a great deal of faith in me to act as their main, and often, solo representative in these dispatch locations. I have always considered it flattering that they have trusted me to act with a certain amount of independence and minimal direct supervision while providing services in the company’s name, and I am very grateful for that.  In the fourth year of my employment my working hours and weekdays were reduced, and despite the resultant loss of income and the difficulties this caused in my professional and personal life, I remained with ILC out of a sense of loyalty and chose to accept their explanation that this reduction was not something they desired, but rather, a matter in which they had no choice. ILC also claimed at the time that they hoped to recover and restore me to my past working hours in subsequent years, and I chose to believe this.

However, I obviously cannot maintain this outlook after facing a non-renewal clause inserted into my fifth contract – without warning or substantial cause. I was further shocked because they did not even try to offer me part time work even though ILC employs many part timers as dispatch teachers.

The only reason I can imagine for ILC refusing to renew my contract either with my current working conditions or as a part timer was simply to prevent me from being able to apply for an unlimited term contract in my sixth year; an application which by law they would have had to accept and give me an unlimited term contract in the next year.

Their recent decisions concerning my employment have not only impacted my professional life, but also, by extension, my prospects for acquiring permanent residency in Japan as length of continuous employment and length of contract are usually considered when immigration makes a decision regarding the application.

Whenever I have raised any of these issues with ILC management, or participated in official negotiations between the company and the union, ILC’s response has always, essentially, been the same: “We understand, and we are sorry, but we cannot do any better.” As a long term employee, this reason is completely insufficient.

I implore the court to consider this case a step forward in protecting not only my own situation, but that of all of Japan’s irregular education workers – foreigner and Japanese alike – from suffering as a result of an employer’s attempt to subvert the law.

I would like to thank all present for their time and hopeful support, and the General Union members here today in their display of solidarity. Your support in this has been invaluable. Thank you.”

– J.A.