On December 15, the General Union, with the cooperation of NUGW Headquarters and together with fellow NUGW unions Tokyo Nambu and Fukuoka General Union, as well as Sapporo Chusho Roren Regional Union (Sapporo General Union), engaged in negotiations with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor (MHWL) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
On the agenda this time were the three following items:
- Promoting the shift from limited-term to unlimited contracts
- Making use of the amended Elderly Persons Employment Stability Act
- The current and future situation of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers)
In regard to number 1, concerning “maximum limits on renewals”–set so as to make it impossible, from the start, to go from a limited to an unlimited contract–the Union side pointed out that this violates the spirit of the rule on switching to unlimited-term.
The MHWL gave a report to the effect that “this problem is currently being taken up in internal discussion, and a certain policy direction is sure to be indicated next year”.
Also, it was brought up that concrete examples of the “ten-year exception” being possibly misused at universities were reported to MEXT several months ago, but that these have yet to be dealt with. MEXT made a promise to take steps on this promptly.
In regard to number 2, the MHWL gave a report of the specific progress of efforts since the law came into effect in April. It was reported that “we are at the stage of surveying the state of efforts at companies, and disseminating information about the amended law”. The union submitted a demand for efforts to make sure that the “duty of effort to secure employment opportunities until age 70”, as stipulated in the law, has real effect.
In regard to number 3, the union side gave a report at the beginning of the meeting about the severe problems faced by ALTs (the awful situation of Sapporo dispatch ALTs, on a level that threatens their very livelihoods; the slipshod way the ALT program was run in Fukuoka, exposed by external audit). Then the MHWL and MEXT were called on to solve these problems and carry out efforts to improve the state of English education.
The MHWL stated that “there are limits [on what we can do], since there is no clear basis in law for the existence of ALTs outside of the JET Program. But in regard to specific ways of cooperation, we will take the matter home and consider it”.
Time was very limited, considering how important each of the items on the agenda was. However, before the meeting ended, we were able to confirm that there would be continued communications between our unions and the government on each one of these issues.