Our sister union, NUGW Tokyo Nambu, have members at the British Council Tokyo. They have started industrial action on forced retirement at 65. They are calling on the British Council Japan to abide by – British Council global EDI, or “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” policy. Sounds improbable? Well, union members at the British Council’s Tokyo branch think so too. In fact, they think their reality is more a case of IDE – Inequality, Discrimination and Exclusion!
The global EDI policy actually looks pretty good on paper. It makes clear that the British Council, as a public body, supposedly follows UK law, unless local law is stronger. Because the UK Equality Act 2010 outlawed forced retirement, therefore, it should not happen anywhere in the British Council globally. Trouble is, their Japan office’s workplace rules are a different story, and all staff there are forced to retire at 65.
The National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu has continually challenged this discriminatory practice since 2012, and yet despite such a clear breach of British Council global policy, and its admission in collective bargaining five years ago that there is no justification for it, staff are still being forced out, just because of their age. There have been plenty of warm words, talk of reviews, of papers, of committees, of EDI team meetings and assessment frameworks, but up to now, no firm commitment and no time frame for abolition of the practice. This is why the union is calling on the British Council to immediately sign a collective agreement to protect one member who turns 65 in May. The British Council however, continues to refuse, citing its own “processes”.
Members eventually said they think eleven years is long enough, and on 4th March staged a one-day strike at the British Council in Iidabashi. The centre was picketed from morning to night, and striking staff were joined by students doing a petition, with over 70 signatures already collected. Support also came from fellow union members with giant banners and pennants, as well as teachers from other unions, and the new picket-line hit was a version of the well-known tune “When I’m sixty-five”. You may know it – the chorus goes like this.
Give us a job, another five years, if I’m still alive
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-five?
The union continues to call on the British Council in Japan to just do the right thing and start to practise its avowed values in Japan.
To find out more about this story, contact:
National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, British Council branch firstname.lastname@example.org