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  • Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 29th, 2012

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    Hi Blog. In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record.  And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.  Arudou Debito

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    The Japan Times, Tuesday, July 17, 2012
    LIFELINES: LABOR PAINS
    Courts back workers’ rock-solid right to strike (excerpt)
    By HIFUMI OKUNUKI, professor of constitutional and labor law at Daito Bunka University and Jissen Women’s University
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

    [...]

    One large company recently lost its claim of ¥110 million in damages against its union and union executives (see “Berlitz Loses Suit Over Union Teacher Strikes,” Feb. 28, The Japan Times).

    Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus.

    The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes. While case law stipulates that prior notice must be given for a strike, it does not set a minimum time. Berlitz teachers often gave less than five minutes’ notice. This probably created a headache for management, because they had less time to send replacement teachers to cover the struck classes.

    The school also claimed that a union executive, Louis Carlet (full disclosure: Carlet is the current president of Tozen Union), had admitted to wanting to damage the company in a Sept. 30, 2008, Zeit Gist column in The Japan Times (“Berlitz Strike Grows Despite Naysayers“).

    Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan. The court rejected the company’s contention that the union was striking to destroy the company and agreed with the union’s assertion that the only purpose of the strikes was to realize its demands.

    Management appealed the verdict and Tokyo High Court is currently overseeing reconciliation talks between the two sides.

    Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120717lp.html

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    2 Responses to “Japan Times on reaffirmed J workers’ “right to strike”, thanks to judicial precedent set by defeated 2012 nuisance lawsuit from eikaiwa Berlitz Inc.”

    1. Charuzu Says:

      I am struck by the quote at the beginning of the article, made by a student to the professor (and article author) — an expert on labour law:

      “Sensei, Japan is such a safe country because there are no strikes. Right?”

      It is remarkable that in Japan, situated so close to China, where there are no strikes, and North Korea, where there are no strikes, that the student finds being a country with no strikes to be a praiseworthy characteristic.

      And, the linkage implicitly made by the student between a strike — a non-violent form of conflict — and violence and safety issues is also interesting.

      To me, it suggests a notion that any form of conflict is viewed as inimical rather than the notion that conflict should be chaneled into non-violent forms.

      It also occurs to me that if any form of very sharp disagreement or conflict is viewed as harmful by many, that such a view has relevance to the issue of improving the fate of NJ in Japan, as well as all other marginalised groups.

      If, in effect, NJ were to strike (or more accurately hold public demonstrations for their rights), would many J see this action as activity threatening public safety?

    2. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Charuzu #1

      “Sensei, Japan is such a safe country because there are no strikes. Right?”

      Whilst the alleged comment by a student would indeed be a great demonstration of the extent to which any visible display of disagreement is deemed to be such a massive threat to the ‘system of control’ that is the myth of Japanese harmony, that many Japanese may not be able to understand the concept of the democratic right to strike, I have serious doubts that this interchange ever took place. I have never met a student at any J-university who had such an incisive intellect. It would be a far more believable anecdote if the student had said; ‘My teacher said that Japan is such a safe country because there are no strikes’. The quoted question is, I believe, far beyond the level of reasoning required to graduate from a J-university, even as a post-grad.

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