Unlimited Term Contracts at Universities and Colleges

The General Union, NUGW Tokyo Nambu, and Fukuoka General Union ran a seminar on 6 December for university teachers about unlimited term contracts.

Did you know that as of 2018, those having worked continuously for five years at the same university are eligible for an unlimited term contract?

Q: Unlimited term contract (UTC)? What’s that?

It’s an employment contract without an arbitrary end date and is a new right that came along with an amendment to the Labour Contract Law in 2013.

Many of us currently work on one-year contracts which require a renewal year to year, but a UTC requires no renewal. This means that if an employer wants to get rid of you, basically they would have to fire you; not just wait out the year and then refuse to give you another contract.

Does this mean you have a job for life with the exact number of koma on the same exact day and time? No, but it does mean that if all remains the same (student numbers, curriculum, etc) you can keep working and we would argue, should be able to retain your koma (the latter part has still to be tested out in court).

Basically, after you begin an employment contract that brings you into your sixth continuous year, you make the application, and then at the end of that contract, you begin an unlimited term contract.

1-Year Contract example:

2-Year Contract example:

3-Year Contract example:

Q: But my university says that we can only apply for this UTC after my tenth renewal.

It is true that SOME employees of universities are not entitled to apply until the beginning of their 11th year, but this is NOT for all, or even a majority, of university employees, and in the case of part-timers, it probably is never the case. Those who cannot apply until a tenth renewal are those covered by either the Developing Research Law (Kenkyu Kaihatsu Kyouka Ho) Article 15.2, or University Teachers Term of Office Law (Ninki Ho) Article 4. These two laws basically cover those whose main work is research (see here for a more complete definition).

Q: Has the union been successful in forcing universities to change their position?

Yes, the union has been able to negotiate the change at a few universities and we are now starting to expand our focus on the bigger universities like Kansai University, Ritsumeikan University, and Doshisha University. We feel that even at the minimum, part-timers should definitely not be covered by this ten-year exception.

From our own members we already know many universities that are subverting the use of the two above mentioned laws, but we would like to know more workplaces.

Q: Good luck to you! But my university won’t even let me get to either the five-year or even the ten-year mark. They have limited the number of renewals I am allowed.

While we believe that this is a tougher nut to crack because there is nothing “illegal” about this, but the more information we have about universities doing this simply to subvert the Labour Contract Law, the more we will be able to talk to labour and education ministry officials about this problem. This will be a longer fight, but the data is the right first step in working to overcome this problem so that university teachers can enjoy the benefits of the amended Labour Contract Law. So, please don’t forget to complete the survey.

Got questions about your right to an unlimited term contract? Reach out to us for a consultation