In 2020, when the first wave of COVID-19 swept through Japan, a General Union member was working for dispatch company GLOVA, teaching English at a vocational school to which he was dispatched. Due to COVID-19, some classes were canceled.
The union member asked the company to pay Kyugyo Teate. Kyugyo Teate is a payment that companies are obligated to pay employees when they are ordered not to work, for any reason other than an “act of God,” such as a severe typhoon. GLOVA replied, “Your contract with us is an itaku (freelancer) contract, not an employment contract, so we will not pay you Kyugyo Teate.”
The union intervened and collective bargaining was held. The company failed to answer any of the union’s questions.
The company repeatedly told the union, “We are currently discussing this issue internally, so please wait a while.” In the end, the union received a response saying that the company would not pay Kyugyo Teate because the contract was an itaku contract.
Filing a complaint with LSO and…
The union member went to the local LSO (Labour Standards Inspection Office) with detailed documents and promptly responded to the Inspector’s request for additional information.
The LSO supported the union member’s complaint, stating, “The contract with the company is an employment contract. Therefore, the company must pay Kyugyo Teate.” The LSO then notified the company and the union member of this decision.
The company’s lawyer even visited the LSO in Osaka from Tokyo.
The company has been avoiding its responsibility as an “employer” by treating most of its contracts with English teachers as “itaku contracts.” Therefore, the LSO’s decision was a serious matter for the company that could shake up the way it runs its business. Therefore, the lawyer told the LSO, “This decision is unacceptable. It is an important policy for the company.”
However, faced with such resistance from the company, the LSO took no steps to bring the company into compliance with the law. The company told the LSO that it would not follow its decision, but that it would consider some help for the employee in question in lieu of Kyugyo Teate. Amazingly, the LSO tacitly agreed, treating the case as “settled.”
Upon hearing this, the union member and the union decided that the matter could not be left unresolved, and the union went to the LSO to inquire about the reason for this action.
The inspector who responded said, “We did everything we could. I apologize for not being able to help your member.”
Where is the most reliable force?
Just prior to the union’s visit to the LSO, the member in question received the following e-mail from the company
“We have heard that you are having difficulties due to a decrease in your income and would like to receive Kyuguyo Teate. Since GLOVA and you have an itaku contract, we are unable to pay you Kyugyo Teate. However, we thought we might be able to advise you on government subsidies for freelancers, etc.”
Not only did GLOVA blatantly ignore the judgment of the LSO, but it shamelessly attempted to shift its responsibility onto the government subsidy program.
LSO consequently supported such behavior by the company.
We believe that the LSO should play an important role in protecting and improving workers’ lives and rights. At the same time, however, we must also point out that, when faced with the reality surrounding the Labour Standards Inspection Offices, they cannot be totally relied upon to solve the problems faced by workers.
The surest way forward is to have strong and growing labor unions that embody the unity of the workers themselves.
We would like to convey the following to GLOVA and the LSO: “This case has not been ‘settled’ yet.”