First Hearing: GU Members vs. Osaka University

Oct 17, 2022 ,

On 17 October union members and supporters gathered at the Osaka District Court to support our union members who are suing Osaka University (Handai) for their failure to issue an unlimited term contract. The university argues that until this year, members were not employees and therefore were not eligible to apply for unlimited term contracts as outlined in the Labour Contract Law.

Union members at universities are seeing many tricks to evade the Labour Contract Law, but so far, only Osaka University has taken this tactic of denying the existence of an employment relationship. What makes this even more disgusting is that Osaka University is a public, national university which would make you believe that they are more likely to follow both the law and government policies to improve the employment security of part-time workers.

Union members all vow to work together to support our members suing the university, especially as their employment will now be terminated at the end of this academic year on 31 March 2022. Our determination to fight and win this battle can be clearly seen in the statement that our member read during the first court hearing.

“Good afternoon. 

“First of all, I would like to thank the court for giving me the opportunity to make this brief statement. I would also like to thank all the supporters who are here today to show their solidarity. I really appreciate your being here. Finally, I would like to thank the lawyers representing us, Ms. Sadaoka and Mr. Murasumi. 

“I will keep this statement brief and just give you a little bit of my history and the history of this case. Like many teachers in the education industry in Japan, I first started working in Eikaiwas. After a while doing that, I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree to both improve my teaching and to improve my employment prospects. My goal was to get a position teaching at a university because I understood that the conditions were better and that the work was more satisfying. 

“I got my first positions at universities in 2004. At that time, I started working for two private universities, and for the Osaka University of Foreign Languages, which was also known as Osaka Gaidai, Osaka University of Foreign Languages hired me directly. In other words, I was an employee of the Osaka University of Foreign Languages. In 2007, Osaka University of Foreign Languages merged with Osaka University. At that point, a steady worsening of conditions began. At some point, Osaka university began to claim that I and other part time teachers were not employees but rather were independent contractors. I do not recall them making this change in status clear to us, nor was it clear that this change had been made in the contracts that I signed. I have since learned that these kinds of contracts are referred to in the media as camouflage contracts and that companies that use these kinds of contracts are referred to as black companies. I never imagined that a National University would use the kinds of tactics that black companies use to both evade the law and to avoid their responsibilities to society. And yet here we are. 

“Unfortunately, Osaka University is not the only institution using unethical and questionably legal methods such as camouflage contracts, arbitrary term limits, and “cooling periods” to dodge and weave their way around their obligations under the Labour Contract Law. This case is important not only for workers at Osaka University, but also for workers at all the other institutions that are flagrantly and too often with impunity evading their obligations under the law. 

“The General Union, both its executives and its members, has been incredibly supportive throughout this ordeal. Once again, I would like to sincerely thank all the General Union members who have come here today in a demonstration of their solidarity with our struggle for fair and just treatment by our employer, Osaka University.”

Thank you to all the union members and supporters who came out today.