Volume 8 Number 1 Summer 2002
New editor, new look. Changes have been made to make the PALE Journal easier to navigate and digest. It is built on all the hard work that has gone into maintaining this publication. Comments and suggestions most welcome, please send to the editor.
This issue covers a case that has proven to be a political time bomb and an expensive embarrassment to Japan and its legal system. The report on the Kansai University Labor Dispute and Prosecution follows the lead of past articles in the PALE Journal by presenting a clear case of academic apartheid, but also serves to unearth a flagrant disregard for law in Japan that will have ramifications effecting revisions in employment policy long after the current dispute is settled. The prosecution of Kansai University and the related labor dispute made it to the floor of the Japanese Diet this spring and it has become a debate of national significance sure to influence the way business is done at private Japanese universities and companies, particularly where foreign educators are concerned.
The report about Kansai University encompasses the entire Summer 2002 issue of the PALE Journal as no other articles were submitted. It is hoped that more submissions will be sent in for the next PALE Journal slated for the end of 2002. See Submissions for details.
David Agnew, Editor
University Labor Dispute and Prosecution
Kansai University (KU), as with other cases documented in the Archive, has a history of discriminatory practices towards its educators on the basis of extranationality, or for other reasons unrelated to professionalism. (Blacklist) In other words, KU does not look at a foreign applicant in terms of qualification, but rather by citizenship, and has refused to change its employment practices even after being educated about the unethical and illegal nature of the offending policies. It also refuses to get its full-time teachers involved in unemployment insurance which is an obligation and not the option the university would have you believe it is. Furthermore, KU has attempted to institute a contract system that will allow them to terminate part-time teachers or cut their classes even if they have worked at the university for years. Bad management decisions for all employees and students at KU. Education Workers and Amalgamated Union Osaka (EWA) put together a carefully planned strategy to take KU to task on these issues and is now in the court phase of the dispute. This report documents the ongoing labor dispute between the union and the university, the related prosecution of KU by the Osaka Public Prosecutor and introduces the rationale behind these actions based on my experience.
Many teachers who have lived in Japan for an extended period resent being lumped together with the steady stream of foreigners that haunt the country's conversation schools and other less reputable places of business in order to fill their pockets and leave. My years in Japan as a foreign resident have certainly allowed exposure to quite the motley crew of foreigners, from pretentious riffraff to enlightened scholars, and the language-study industry here will continue to draw the neophyte adventurers that even some tenured teachers in our ranks ascended from. Twelve years later, this continuum persists and I see it as an obstacle to securing real and sustainable employment in Japan. Of course, workers such as those employed at language schools deserve to be protected from being scammed, the General Union has been very successful in this area, and foreign workers are in a much stronger position because of these efforts. The problem for foreign workers is that, regardless of how long one plans to work in Japan, some employers will use nationality as an excuse to justify inferior working conditions for non-Japanese.
I believe those of us who choose to make a life in Japan, as opposed to the most sincere fly-by-night travelers, go through the same acculturation process that potential immigrants in any country would and we begin to want to identify with the Japanese on equal footing. We feel that we contribute to our adopted society as teachers, and as individuals, and that even if we are not citizens of this country we still deserve to be recognized by our profession and not our nationality. We are not tourists but Japanese on the street surely don't know or care if you have been here one day or one decade, and the foreigner-as-visitor mentality is often at the root of the discrimination issue as it manifests itself in the workplace. A contributing factor is that the average Japanese, and those in the institutions providing employment, can't distinguish the good from the bad and the ugly as there is no standard by which to judge.
Tenure for foreign teachers is one way to promote an equal playing field, but unlike many contributors to past PALE Journals I would argue that non-tenured full-time positions without discriminatory limits can also be a viable form of employment for foreign teachers at all education levels in Japan. It is simply not realistic to expect all teachers to receive tenured positions and not having tenure doesn't have to mean lack of job security. The attitude towards foreigners in the workplace and what is expected of us plays more of a role in the discrimination issue than does the chance of getting or losing one of the much coveted, and fast disappearing, tenured positions. Those of us who teach full-time or who teach part-time at several universities or other institutions form the majority of teachers in Japan, non-Japanese and Japanese alike, and improvement in working conditions for this group would certainly go a long way to eliminate discrimination in the Japanese workplace. Foreign teachers should expect the same employment as their Japanese colleagues based on qualifications and experience, but how does one force an employer to play by the rules? Unionize.
Collective protection and action through a union is another way to keep the playing field level. A union that adheres to Japan's laws can work to ensure that foreign workers are not treated unfairly. The impermanence of teaching positions for foreigners and the forced turnover of foreign staff acts hand-in-hand with the constant ebb and flow of transient workers to perpetuate the "temporary worker" stigma. This view may in part be understood by the fact that many "language" teachers do indeed travel the globe to teach in several countries during their careers, but does that mean that those of us who have decided to stay must necessarily be treated as part-time members of the society? Anyone with cursory knowledge of Japanese history knows that foreigners here have always endured a very precarious existence, but the argument that Japan is not an immigration nation and that foreigners should expect to have limits is certainly not endorsed by my fellow members in the union movement. EWA clearly identifies this aspect of Japanese society for the scourge it is, regardless of what some foreign and Japanese apologists claim, and Japanese labor law at least pays the issue lip service. (Japan Institute of Labour -English) Others view us in much more disparaging ways.
A Japanese in my family once referred to foreign workers lovingly as 'parasites' and it was a sobering if not completely accurate comment. The term certainly isn't restricted to teachers or the situation in Japan, but it seems to fit many of the attitudes and policies that I encounter. A typical question asked of foreigners is "Why did you come to Japan?" Not too invasive in itself but what is more telling is the response one gets when deflecting the question by asking, "Why do you think I came to Japan?" Almost without exception the response is, "For the money." This response may have reflected the times, many of us arrived in the last years of the bubble economy, but I have also heard it echoed at KU.
The well-fed guests attitude was exemplified at KU when Stephen Gibbs, a tenured teacher and coordinator of the group of teachers I worked with, quoted our illustrious Dean of the Institute of Foreign Education and Research (IFLER), Yutaka Kitamura, as describing foreign teachers as "...overpaid, underworked shiftless gaijin." Not very inspiring to know your boss holds you in such low regard but it provided an explicit parallel to the questionable policies that moved the EWA to enter into collective bargaining with KU in November of 2000. Gibbs was actually made Head of the English Department at KU last year, a first for a foreigner in Japan, and was instrumental in the establishment of IFLER. Unfortunately, IFLER maintains the discriminatory hiring of foreign full-time teachers in term-limited positions. It has also moved against all part-time language teachers that came under its wing last year with the imposition of a new contract system that ignores years of service by some part-time teachers and which included an attempt by KU to cut classes from unionized part-time teachers. Ultimately, the contract and working rules were officially rejected by the Ibaraki Labor Inspection Office through the efforts of EWA and other labor groups but the cutting of classes from unionized part-timers continues to be a part of the labor dispute with KU.
Encounter and Initiation
Concerned with the mixed signals I was getting at KU, I tried to improve things internally at first by pointing out obvious differences in working conditions between the tenured staff and those of us who work at KU in full-time but untenured positions. In what proved to be very disappointing, most of my colleagues at KU were more worried about losing holiday time and encountering other purely imagined punitive actions stemming from my asking questions about our highly irregular working conditions than the fact our employer was breaking the law and cheating us economically and professionally. Moreover, some of those that do recognize the inherent discrepancies and complain about them incessantly, quickly backtracked when it came time to actually do something about it. We all have to choose our own fights, but apathy allows the universities to continually exploit the unaware and use the self-serving among us to further their ends. Lack of opposition often legitimates the differential treatment of foreign faculty because the university can contend that if all the other teachers seem content, then the outspoken foreigners must be troublemakers. I don't know if I would go so far as to call my colleagues at KU parasites, but their indifference certainly works against all of us. When one also points a finger at tenured foreign teachers who conveniently turn a blind eye to or willfully endorse differential treatment based on nationality, as is the case at KU, the discrimination issue becomes even more insidious.
Japanese universities and colleges cannot be expected to do the right thing for their non-Japanese employees and this often necessitates sustained, collective and transparent public action. (see Fox, Spring 2001) During the collective bargaining sessions with KU, EWA repeatedly informed the university that it was in violation of laws regarding employer obligations and employee rights; however, the university continues to break the law. Apologists for problems in Japan often put forth the 'love it or leave it' argument, but the rights and protections provided by the laws of Japan are also afforded to foreign residents and we have every right to fight to ensure the law is upheld. Gone for the most part is the 'learn from the barbarian' idea that legitimated the hiring of foreigners until the same positions could be filled by Japanese. This is particularly true at the nation's universities where, since the enactment of laws such as the Sentaku Ninkisei Hou of 1997 (see Ninkisei), foreign faculty can be employed without artificial limits being imposed for whatever ridiculous rationale can be dreamed up based on the nationality of the worker. (see Gallagher) Unfortunately, policies made by university administrations and judgments passed in Japanese courts often fly in the face of the spirit of the laws written to guard the people in need of such protection and contradict the international conventions against discrimination that the Japanese government is party to. (see ICERD) Foreign teachers should not be considered a renewable commodity that can be disposed of at the whim of the universities.
What started out as a concerned teacher asking the right questions about working conditions at his university has become a complex legal battle that has yet to be settled. Previous contributors to PALE provided some of the framework from which EWA and I have approached the problems at KU. The collective bargaining sessions with KU, subsequent labor dispute and prosecution of the university by the Osaka Public Prosecutor stemmed from eight months of research and planning. We approached KU knowing that the university would try to stall indefinitely and would have access to seemingly infinite resources if collective bargaining produced no acceptable results. (see van Dresser, Spring 2001) We are in it for the long haul and we will carry on until this dispute is settled and KU has been brought into line.
The battle at KU is not the beginning of a revolution to overthrow the whole education system, nor is it a narrow-minded crusade against this one university, rather it is a call to enforce Japanese law as it relates to the elimination of discriminatory policies targeting foreign teachers. The ongoing dispute between KU and the EWA has brought several forces into play: the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Labor, the Osaka Labor Board, the Osaka Social Insurance Board, the Ibaraki Labor Inspectors Office, the Osaka Public Prosecutor, the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, the Japanese media, KU students and newspapers, the public at large and, most recently, the Japanese Diet. The connection to the KU case of some of the above participants may not seem obvious at first but they are nonetheless integral players in the successful settlement of this dispute.
EWA is the first union in Japan to make extensive use of its website to expose wrongdoing by educational institutions. KU is the most frequent visitor to the site and, much to their chagrin, all of its illegal actions and official responses have been webbed for public scrutiny. KU has been given every opportunity since November 2000 to make an agreement with EWA but has flatly refused to stop its discriminatory hiring practices and illegal activities. KU representatives, Mr. Ikeuchi, University General Manager and a member of the KU Foundation, and Mr. Konishi, KU Secretary, acting for KU Chair, Heian Hazama, have made no counterproposals at all to end the dispute that continues to this day. This is a fight to keep my job but it is much more than that as will become apparent below.
KU and I first crossed paths in June 1998 when I was invited for an interview for a position commencing the following April in the 'Communication Program' (CP). The information package I received about the CP before attending the interview described a progressive communicative-approach-based program that would have me working in a program that was the envy of the university. This full-time position provided an opportunity to further my professional development and career in the field of TESOL that had been kindled by years of teaching as a part-time teacher at several universities and other institutions. The materials provided to read on interview day furthered the claim of the significance and worthiness of the job. The interview was conducted by Scott Johnson, Stephen Gibbs and Sophia Wiesner, the latter two being the coordinators of the program. The room was filled with about 40 Japanese who were not introduced. Gibbs called me on the evening of the interview to tell me I was chosen for the position. The position, ÁCOêut (tokunin gaikokugo koushi) or Special Foreign Language Lecturer, had the following duties as stipulated in the contract:
of classes (10 Koma/Week)
A full-time teaching position. (Original from contract here in Japanese, Osaka Labor Board and Osaka Social Insurance Board confirmed that the Tokunin position is full-time)
After I started to work at KU, the CP coordinators and IFLER administrators tried to argue that the Tokunin position was a part-time position and as such Tokunin teachers could not expect benefits that part-time teachers do not receive, including unemployment insurance. They also tried to argue that these Tokunin positions are open to Japanese as well but there has never been a Japanese since the program started and the contract makes specific reference to KU paying for an airplane ticket either from or back to your "home" country. (Original from contract here in Japanese) It is pretty obvious that they are maintaining falsehoods to allow KU to skirt its responsibilities and to keep highly qualified foreign teachers on the fringes of the university. Shocking when one considers that Tokunin teach over 3000 first-year students or nearly ten percent of the student body.
Objective eyes identified the so-called 'Communication Program' at KU as a farce that has been used to hide obvious employment irregularities while at the same time cheat foreign teachers both professionally and economically. There is no program, just a name, each Tokunin works independently and the weekly meetings were usually used to take care of personal personnel matters as most Tokunin hired unfortunately lack the Japanese skills to take care of things themselves. More of a concern was the coordinators use of some of the Tokunin teachers to carry out projects in KU's name that were completely unrelated to our positions and students at KU. (e.g., Birmingham - Kansai Proficiency Test) The collective knowledge of what has been one piece of busywork after another exists in the minds of teachers past and present and in the minutes of the weekly meetings. These obvious indiscretions had gone unreported for the most part because of the intimidation and anxiety brought about by concern for job security and not knowing with whom to talk.
The first year proved to be extremely rewarding as a teacher in the classroom, KU students are truly a cut above, but disappointing as an employee. In the spring of 2000, I consulted with EWA and we began to develop a strategy to improve working conditions at KU. We were ready for action by November. The EWA KU Branch was formed and the following letter, originally in Japanese, was sent to Kansai University:
According to the Trade Union Law, an employer's representatives have a duty to bargain in good faith. They break this duty if:
Much of the text below is taken directly from union reports and may not be as dispassionate as some readers prefer.
Collective Bargaining Session 1--The first session of collective bargaining with Kansai University was held on December 21. Four delegates including Mr. Ikeuchi, University General Manager and a member of the KU Foundation, and Mr. Konishi, Secretary of University, represented KU and five Union members including the chair of the EWA KU Branch represented the union.
At the beginning of the meeting, the union exposed that a full-time teacher had intimidated union members saying new contracts for Tokunin teachers were delayed due to union organizing. The union condemned it as an unfair labor practice. KU replied that they believed it had not happened after hearing from staff who had supposedly attended the meeting where such statements were given. The union did not accept their answer because a union member had heard the statements. The union requested that KU investigate the teacher and KU promised to do so in January. Both parties then discussed the union demands as follows:
a) that the
Tokunin regulations(Work Rules) should be shown to the union and Tokunin
the limited term of contracts for Tokunin should be eliminated
Tokunin teachers are got involved in the Benefit Society for Private
School Teachers as well as unemployment insurance.
d) that Tokunin
and part-time teachers need not make up lessons.
Tokunin and part-time teachers should be informed of the number of their
f) that any
changes in working conditions affecting EWA KU Branch members require
the consent of the EWA prior to implementation.
g) that KU
abide by labor laws such has Labor Standards law and Trade Union Law.
KU intimidates union member and reneges on collective bargaining. It was decided by mutual agreement to continue discussing the union demands in 2001, but in a surprise move, KU demonstrated that they were not serious about negotiating when they sent a letter to a union member threatening termination unless he agreed to the section of the work contract that states that the contract is not renewable. The union member had signed the contract but had also signified by writing on the contract that the article pertaining to term limits was a matter of ongoing negotiation between KU and the EWA as established in the first collective bargaining session held on 21 December 2000. In the letter, Heian Hazama , Chairman, KU Board of Trustees, clearly marked a departure from collective bargaining when he wrote, "you will be prohibited from teaching at or entering our institution unless you agree to the term limit." (Protest Letter Japanese)
April 1, 2001 - Classes reinstated for unionized part-time teachers. Reinstatement due to collective bargaining, but KU will again try to cut classes from union members at the end of the year and introduce a contract system for all part-timers.
Collective Bargaining Session 2--EWA protested heavily against KU regarding the threatening letter from KU. The university, however, did not apologize to the union. The negotiation on July 7 is as follows:
EWA - The three-year contract was introduced for teachers from sister schools abroad but no one is hired from abroad now. The salary of teachers being replaced is the same as current teachers so that it is not a good system both economically and educationally.
KU - We will see various types of workers here at KU so that the three-year contract should not be eliminated. This is, we want fresh teachers.
EWA - We can understand that immediate elimination of the contract is difficult, but KU should understand what EWA is demanding.
KU - We are aware of the point EWA is suggesting, but we can not give you an answer right now. (No decision making power, bad faith negotiating)
EWA - We expect it at the next negotiation.
KU also replied to the EWA's demands about health insurance and unemployment insurance and admitted it is necessary to get involved in both types of insurance, but that it will cost a lot. (Admitted obligation but refused to obey law)
EWA - We expect a good answer regarding these insurance related three-year contracts at the next negotiation.
Collective Bargaining Session 3--The union had the third session of collective bargaining about the three-year limited term contract issue and other demands with KU on September 26. KU answered that they could not eliminate the limitation of the three-year contract for Tokunin teachers even though they have been considering it. They also stated that the Tokunin teachers would be "tenured" if the three year limitation is eliminated. (Untrue, the university can hire teachers for any length of time)
that the contract of union members should be renewed even in another
type of contract, but KU would not accept it at all.
The union also insisted that KU must get involved in the Benefit Society for Private School Teachers for Tokunin teachers and unemployment insurance for all full-time teachers in order to obey Japanese laws. KU replied that it costs a lot if all full-time teachers get involved in the insurance. (Once again acknowledged obligation but refused to obey law)
The union insisted that it is their obligation and that no school can opt out of this insurance requirement. The union also told them that we would disclose their illegal matters in public if they did not accept the union's demands. However, KU did not change their minds and offered no counterproposals to settle this case. So EWA announced that it would start a labor dispute because there is no possibility of solving the problems through negotiation given KU's stance and coercive tactics used against union members.
October 2001- EWA and KU teachers visit Osaka Labor Board and the Osaka Social Insurance Board
Both boards clarified that Tokunin are full-time employees. The boards also confirmed that KU must get involved in the Benefit Society for Private School Teachers for Tokunin teachers and unemployment insurance for all full-time teachers in order to obey Japanese law. High level officers visited KU to investigate but KU again refused to obey the law.
November 6, 2001 - EWA sends letter to KU asking the university to accept demands (KU Final Demands-Japanese)
November 9, 2001 - KU replies and refuses to accept demands and purposes no solution. (KU Refusal-Japanese)
It was clear that KU wasn't taking the union or our demands very seriously. EWA held three collective bargaining sessions with KU spanning over a year, as noted above, but KU acted in bad faith from the beginning and never made a counterproposal at any stage of the negotiation. Their attitude demonstrated that they had no intention from the start to reach an agreement, their negotiators had no power to make decisions as they could often not give the union answers during negotiations regarding the demands that we were there to negotiate about, and their arguments were of doubtful reasonableness and insufficient explanation. Bad-faith negotiations, unfair labor practices and other illegal behavior legitimated the strike action which took place in November.
STRIKE--On November 15, 2001, the main gate of Kansai University was occupied by striking teachers and supporters from 10 sister unions and KU students. There were also many KU staff who tried to break the strike with violence but this was unsuccessful.
KU had refused to accept the union demands to abolish the dismissal system of Tokunin teachers and to obey Japanese laws such as the health insurance law and unemployment insurance law which all employers in Japan have to get involved in for workers regardless of nationality. EWA organized the demonstration to support the strike and many teachers who had classes at other schools as part-time teachers canceled classes to participate in the demonstration.
When the union started to distribute fliers (Strike Petition -Japanese) and speak to students and teachers, KU deployed its staff and disturbed the union activities. Heading the barrage were Mr. Ikeuchi and Mr. Konishi. Some of the KU staff hit union members who were handing fliers to students. Mr. Konishi refused to receive the strike notice which the EWA chair had read out and then tried to give him. He said that KU had no dismissal system so he wouldn't receive such a paper. Mr. Konishi, then, went to a union member who went on strike and told him that, "your students were waiting for you at the class why did you not go to teach?" (An unfair labor practice)
KU then encouraged a "battle-jacketed" guy to take pictures of demonstration participants. When union members protested, KU staff once again prevented union members from demonstrating by using violence against the union supporters. The battle guy yelled at a union member who had a mask on because of a cold and told him to take off the mask and show your face. The union member replied that he has a cold but the KU staff did not accept his reason and said the union member was a liar. The battle guy looked and acted like a Yakuza (gang) thug. KU managed to temporarily break the strike with coercion and violence.
The strike demonstration, however, continued and students and teachers gave speeches to support the strike. Students said that KU has behaved badly in that they did not disclose the employment discrimination until a criticism was directed at them. They also said that students continue to support the strike which aimed to abolish the discrimination against foreigners and KU's disobedience of laws. Later that day KU tried to deny wrongdoing with a poster distributed throughout campus.
week after the strike, the striking union member was singled out and
ordered, in front of his colleagues, to meet with Yutaka Kitamura, Dean
of the Institute of Foreign Language Education and Research (IFLER)
of Kansai University. In yet another unfair labor practice, the union
member was told not to go on strike again.
November 19, 2001-Osaka Union Network (OUN), a union network organization based in Osaka, had a meeting with the Osaka Labor Board (OLB) seeking clarification for several ongoing labor issues including the KU problem.
OUN asked the OLB who had advised KU to make the "Tokunin Teachers Working Rules" which have a three-year-term-limited contract and why they would advise KU on this matter. During union negotiations, KU had claimed that they were advised to make the rule by a Labor Standards Inspector in 1992. If there was no advice given from the Labor Standards Inspector's office, it would demonstrate without doubt that KU lied in negotiations and this would constitute an unfair labor practice and unfaithful negotiation.
November 22, 2001 - November 15 strike member singled out to meet with KU's Yutaka Kitamura and member told not to go on strike again. (An unfair labor practice)
December 17, 2001 -The OLB investigated and delivered their answer to OUN. OLB responded that in matters of contract renewal it would not have advised KU regarding term limits in the Tokunin Teachers Working Rules in 1992 as it is not within their jurisdiction to enforce such a rule. Furthermore, the OLB emphasized that contracts may not exceed one year in length as mandated by law, there are no provisions for limiting renewal in any case, and they did not guide KU in imposing term limits. (KU proven to have lied during negotiations)
January 7, 2002 - EWA submitted the Kansai University case to the Labor Relations Commission (LRC) in Osaka listing several instances of KU's unfair labor practices. The LRC feels hearings are warranted and several meetings between EWA and KU take place. February 25, 2002 decided on to start the full trial of KU. (LRC -Japanese)
January 31, 2002 - KU's newly hired lawyer files civil case to prevent EWA from holding constitutionally sanctioned demonstration at KU planned for Feb. 3. Civil court grants KU's request. In so doing, civil court judge violates Japanese constitution's guarantee of the right to demonstrate and have collective union action. (KU Civil -Japanese)
February 3, 2002 - Entrance exam demonstration near KU at Kandaimae Station. More than 50 union members and supporters peacefully demonstrated at Kandaimae station on the morning of Feb. 3. The demonstration was held to bring attention to KU's discriminatory dismissal system and violation of Japanese law. The target audience were students coming to take the entrance examination at KU.
Earlier in the week, KU submitted a document to the civil court to prevent union members and supporters from demonstrating at KU even though the union had no intention of entering the university. The court accepted KU's request and thus KU was better able to attract students since members and supporters had to gather at the train station instead of the main gate at KU; however, as most students came by train, the demonstration was effective.
Some students talked to their former teachers from junior and senior high school who were leafleting at the station and recognized what KU is doing is against the law. KU claims they have no idea what the protest is about by posting a message on their website. (http://www.kansai-u.ac.jp/jyuken0203.htm <-- KU removed this page after press conference listed below)
February 25, 2002-Kansai University Trial at Labor Commission. KU went on trial and their unfair labor and other illegal practices were addressed. The first witness was the KU branch chair who confirmed what has transpired from the beginning. KU once again tried to cut classes from union members at the end of the year but at the trial KU reveals classes are reinstated, again. KU incredibly claims reinstatement is not the result of collective bargaining but simply a matter of classes becoming available. (Class cuts for part-time teachers still part of Labor Relations Commission case)
March 13, 2002-Employment Insurance Law Article 83 to Punish KU. Osaka Union Network negotiated with the OLB regarding various demands including the KU issue as part of the Spring Labor Offensive. The union demanded that KU be punished leading to 6 months imprisonment or paying the penalty of less than 300,000 yen according to the Employment Insurance Law, Article 83. The authorities must prosecute all offenders of this law. There are several other universities around the Kansai and other regions in Japan that routinely cheat their employees by not paying the mandatory premiums stipulated in the law. It is hoped that this precedent will be followed by the systematic exposure and prosecution of all remaining offenders in Japan.
March 19, 2002- Ibaraki Labor Inspection Office Rejects Work Rules Submitted by KU. In December 2001, EWA informed the Osaka Labor Board that Kansai University had submitted new work rules, including a contract system for part-time teachers, without a signature representing the majority of KU employees. Ibaraki Labor Inspection Office officially rejected this submission from Kansai University. (Work rules and contract are invalid)
April 2, 2002- Labor Relations Commission Trial #2 for Kansai University. The EWA KU branch chair was a witness at the LRC on April 2. KU's lawyer asked superfluous and mostly irrelevant questions trying to weaken the union's case but this strategy was utterly unsuccessful. The case against KU's unfair labor practices and other illegal activities is very strong.
Prosecution of Kansai University Commences and Labor Dispute Continues
March 25, 2002-Tokyo Meeting with Monbukagakusho Successful. A meeting with the Monbukagakusho (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) was held with EWA members from the Kansai and Kanto areas as well as members from sister unions in the Tokyo area and the Secretary of Zenrokyo were in attendance. Several issues were covered including the ongoing debate of the use of "national" anthems and flags in schools, private university employment and insurance scams such as those found at KU, and a wide range of topics relevant to this ministry. The KU case in particular was given considerable attention by both sides. The infringement of the the Employment Insurance Act is of national significance. The Monbukagakusho officials stated that they would review funding for any university and/or program found in violation of law. The same will be the case for the Osaka Prefectural Government.
April 4, 2002 - Osaka Public Prosecutor to take action against Kansai University The Osaka Public Prosecutor was informed and must take action against Kansai University for its infringement of the the Employment Insurance Act (KU Prosecution -Japanese). Later, EWA held a press conference with NHK, MBS, ABC and journalists from the Ashahi Shinbun, Kyodo News and other Japanese media reported the story.
Shimbun article 2002.4.5 (Japanese)
This case received excellent coverage by the Japanese media and has been deemed a precedent setting case by all involved. The union, and not an individual, brought the case to the Osaka Public Prosecutor.
Part-time teachers given "jirei" without having signed invalid contract. KU issued "jirei" or notices of employment to part-time teachers who refused to sign the illegal contract invalidated by the Ibaraki Labor Inspection Office proving it has no bearing on employment at KU if it is not signed. KU employees were advised by EWA NOT to sign any contract that KU sends out. EWA KU branch's ranks continue to increase as teachers learn the truth about the illegal contract system and the discriminatory dismissals at KU.
June 7, 2002 - KU Trial at LRC. KU introduced a witness after they stated they would not call any further witnesses. Mr. Ikeuchi, University General Manager and member of the KU Foundation, was questioned by Mr. Shige, the lawyer hired by KU. Ikeuchi was one of the men who led the physical assault on union demonstrators at the strike at Kansai University on November 15, 2001.
June 12, 2002 - Kansai University Insurance Scam Discussed at Japanese Diet. Ms. Tomoko Nakagawa (Social Democratic Party) put questions to the Minister of Labor at the House of Representatives. She asked about private universities' illegal matters regarding the Unemployment Insurance Law and also exposed that Kansai University was revealed to the prosecution office. You can see the video at: http://www.shugiintv.go.jp/meta/17484-564-b-j.wvx (Japanese) Japanese Diet Transcript
July 8, 2002-4th Trial of Kansai University Held at Osaka Labor Relations Board. EWA put severe questions to Mr. Ikeuchi (one of the board of trustees of KU) during cross examination over three-year contract limitation, absentee for unemployment/social insurance, illegal practices about submitting work rules to the authorities and other irregularities. (KU-LRC4 -Japanese)
Mr. Ikeuchi testified that KU had introduced a non-limited term contract Tokunin teacher at its kindergarten because of other union's demands although KU did not accept EWA's demand for the elimination of three-year limitation. He proved that KU discriminated against EWA compared to other unions. He also claimed that KU did not hear from EWA about the new part-time teacher working rule while they requested the other three full-time teachers union at KU to submit their opinion about it. This was further proof of their discriminatory policy against EWA and this is against Trade Union Law.
He stated at the previous trial in June that the reason of nonpayment of unemployment insurance is the existence of agreement between the Private University Federation and the Ministry of Labor, and that the Private University Retirement Fund had paid an equivalent as unemployment benefit and that most teachers retire at age 70 and do not receive unemployment benefits. EWA showed a report made by the Representative of Japanese Diet about the Diet discussion regarding welfare and labor issues on June 12 and pointed out that the report denied what Ikeuchi claimed at the last trial. He admitted that he did not recognize the truth but he said KU won't follow the law because 500 other universities do not abide by the law. EWA recommended an idea to make KU's competency strong by showing their commitment to obey the law in the race to form a law school in Japan. He did not accept it.
asked why KU sent documents to just two fired Tokunin to require the
past two years premium of unemployment insurance, Mr. Ikeuchi answered
it was because they consulted with Osaka Labor Board; however, the truth
is that three teachers, not two, consulted the Board and it was last
October when they could earn a salary. Mr. Ikeuchi's answer was quite
irrational but he said that he was recommended to do so by the Osaka
Labor Board. EWA realized that there was a warehouse of fortune in his
testimony to extend this labor dispute. EWA will proceed to the next
step of the labor dispute with successful trials at the Labor Relations
Commission, but EWA announced it will stop notifying about its tactics
and strategy through its webpage. The EWA site has generously informed
KU in the past, the most frequent visitor to the site.
August 2, 2002 - New unfair labor practices case against KU started at LRC . The KU dispute took another turn on August 2 when EWA successfully submitted a new unfair labor practices case against the university for actions against the union itself. During negotiations between KU and EWA, enrollment in unemployment insurance (an obligation confirmed by the Ministry of Labor) for all full-time teachers has been a demand of collective bargaining. KU has claimed their actions regarding the insurance have been guided directly by the Osaka Labor Board (OLB); however, OLB has repeatedly maintained they gave no such guidance. 4 foreign Tokunin teachers were dismissed by KU at the end of March but only 2 were asked to do the paperwork in June and pay 2-years worth of premiums. KU's attempt to forge a makeshift and inferior solution without involving EWA has moved the union to take further action against KU.
The fact that KU tried to bypass the union and deal directly with union members regarding a demand that has been part of collective bargaining and is now a part of a Labor Relations Commission trial is a violation of Japan's Trade Union Law. During the hearing, KU asked the union why the university's actions violated the law. EWA will further prove its case when the two parties meet again on September 2, 2002.
Foreign workers are protected by Japanese law. EWA knows the law and together we have used it to make KU accountable. We have also made extensive use of the union website to publicize the KU case and it receives hits from several universities every day. KU has publicly admitted that the university is breaking the law but feels safe because over 500 other universities are also ignoring the law in order to scam billions of yen from employees.
EWA and I have broken legal ground by taking this case to the Osaka Public Prosecutor with the union as a plaintiff. Union lawyers are actively pursuing this case and the Osaka Public Prosecutor will soon take action. KU is also being actively challenged at the Labor Relations Commission by two simultaneous cases, one concerned with unfair dismissals and unfair labor practices, the other deals with KU discriminating against the union by trying to bypass the union and deal directly with union members.
The actions against KU are ongoing and we hope the university will come to its senses sooner rather than later. EWA and I will be here until it does.
David P. Agnew has taught in the Kansai area for more than a decade and is actively pursuing employment equality for foreign teachers in Japan.
All materials in this publication are copyright © 1998 - 2004 by their respective authors.