On January 16th (2020), the General Union filed a case against Nagoya International School at the Osaka Prefectural Labour Commission.
Staff have raised a number of issues that they have with the school in conversations with the union, including difference in conditions between “local” and “foreign” hires being enrolled in social insurance (Shakai Hoken), maternity leave, annual leave, issues with evaluation and promotion, and issues with the way management have dealt with teachers.
However, the trigger that initially sparked interest in unionization was the way that management mis-handled a sexual harassment complaint.
Employers are required by law to have a sexual harassment policy, and yet the school did not have such a policy and had to adopt one only after the complaint was made.
The union member who made the complaint was unhappy about the way it was dealt with, and she informed them that she was going to ask the GU to take up her case.
She was subsequently refused permission to participate in the school’s “promotion ladder” despite an excellent evaluation at the end of the year “pathway” (as the school calls its evaluation process).
She was initially told that this was out of concern for “her health”.
However, in both formal and informal negotiations with the union, the school administration has stated that her questioning of the motives of management was a breach of the school’s policy – namely, that every teacher must assume the good intentions of their colleagues.
She was also told that her email stating that she would involve the union was an example of the kind of actions that made her unsuitable to apply for promotion.
A mail sent to our member also suggested that if she was so clearly unhappy with the school, she should look for work elsewhere.
The criticisms that she made of management were in relation to an initial inequitable and heavy workload, and then their handling of the sexual harassment complaint.
The response from the school administration to the filing of the Labour Commission case was to use an inaccurate account of an incident – an account that was highly personal and confidential in nature that our member had shared with the school after being encouraged to do so by the administration, and only after being assured that the school was a “safe space”.
We believe that they used this in an attempt to humiliate and undermine the testimony of our member.
If nothing else, this fact alone demonstrates the unsuitability of the existing school administration to handle sexual harassment complaints.
Management’s actions have angered other teachers.
The consequences of the administration’s actions, if unchallenged, can only result in a culture of fear, preventing others from raising complaints about sexual harassment in the future.
As a union, we are determined not to let this happen.
The General Union at Nagoya International School can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org