GEM School: Not All Sparkles and Joy

Oct 28, 2022 ,

This past October, General Union held two Collective Bargaining meetings with Shikoku-based, kid-centric English school GEM School. The sessions were tense, stiff, and frequently non-sensical from our perspective, but we plan to keep fighting for our workers.

*** Rough Going for GEM Teachers ***
We were first contacted by a GEM teacher in mid 2021 about an unfair dismissal. Soon thereafter, two more teachers contacted us to lodge complaints about GEM School, ranging from lax safety standards for the prevention of Covid spread to fishy contract details and an overall culture of repression, intrusion, and fear dominating the company.

Over time, more and more GEM teachers reached out to General Union with their own horror stories. An exhaustive list of the problems they brought up to us would fill a short book. Some of the highlights include:

  • Routine wage theft
  • Fining teachers who don’t arrive at work early
  • Unfair dismissals
  • Spreading negative stories about dismissed teachers, which teachers have told us are false
  • Refusal of proper breaks at work
  • Constantly changing work hours and work locations without workers’ consent
  • Failure to enroll eligible workers into social health and pension insurances
  • Imposing penalties on workers who leave company housing
  • Breaking into employees’ housing

Each item listed above is serious and they are all being investigated by our union. In fact, at the end of October, two of our officers paid a visit to the Kagawa Prefectural Labor Standards Office to have a friendly chat with authorities about GEM.

*** A Tarnished Experience ***
Due to the poor working conditions, unfair treatment, and the oppressive atmosphere reported at GEM, turnover has unsurprisingly been quite high for the school. Despite this, its recruitment page announces, without a sense of irony, that “Happy People Do Happy Work.”

Our response to that is “Unhappy People Leave Your Company and You Try Not to Pay Them.”

This has been the experience of some of our union members who have exited the company, and prospective employees are warned to take heed.

Now, worker dissatisfaction with GEM School is reaching the point that it is gaining notoriety on online public forums like Reddit.

If GEM’s attitude during our negotiations thus far is any indication, this bad reputation will only grow over time and create a real worker crunch for them that will make 2020 feel like a recruitment golden age.

*** Elbow Grease and Polish ***
We are hard at work tackling GEM’s rough edges. The company can make this a short process or a long and painful process; but from this point forward we would like all our readers to expect more updates about this incredible company as we continue negotiations and even plan actions that you may be able to help with.

At General Union, we are taking the fight to employers who do wrong by workers. If you or someone you know is bowing under the pressure at work, reach out to us for a consultation and see what can be done to help you, or join General Union and help others win the rights they deserve.