8 February, 2020 - Chris Flynn

Labour Rights Education for Education Workers
Chris Flynn

In our February presentation, Chris Flynn covered a number of issues relevant to teachers working in Japan. During the talk we learned about labour standards for subcontractors/employees, insurance coverage at work, union formation rights and unlimited term contracts.

Regarding the labour standards law he highlighted two important points.
According to article 3, Japanese and foreign workers are obliged to be treated the same. Also, part time and full time workers should be treated the same.

The only difference in the eyes of the law was if you are an employee or are sub-contracted. If you are subcontracted, you have no protection under the labour standards law especially in the case of being summarily sacked. Subcontractors are considered to be independent business entities so if a subcontractor loses a job then he/she needs to take the issue directly to court rather than contact the Labour Office. On the other hand the employer has no direct control over a subcontractors work. Therefore Chris warned us to look very carefully at any contract before signing in case it says "行未委託"(gyoumuitaku - subcontracting).

Chris then gave practical examples of how the embrace of gyomuitaku has been adversely affecting teaching in Japan. He describe how most non-JET ALTs are working as subcontractors in a team teaching capacity with a full-time teacher. This is despite the fact that it is illegal for an employer (i.e. the teacher) to give instructions to a subcontractor (the ALT). He also highlighted how often companies exploit employee's ignorance of this system by making threats that can not be carried out such as cancellation of visas or penalty fees for quitting the job.

The next part of his presentation was about the importance of social insurance and how/why companies avoid having teachers be covered by it.

Normally full-time employees are entitled to social insurance. 50% of the insurance fees of will be paid by the employer. However the social insurance office issued a memorandum saying that a worker who does about three quarters of a full-time worker's hours must be enrolled. So to avoid paying for social insurance companies have be deliberately restricting work hours to just under three quarters of a standard 40 hour week (29.5 hours). Employees should try to get social insurance as it offers far better long-term coverage in the case of illness or injury.

We were then given a summary of general laws relating to work rules, firing/quitting, wages, breaks, and holidays. The details can be downloaded at the General Union web site http://fukuoka.generalunion.org/index.html. Of note was the fact that all employees are legally protected from retaliation if they wish to join a union and to participate in collective bargaining in conjunction with a union.

The final topic of discussion covered our rights to obtain an unlimited term contract.
On April 1st, 2013 the government instituted a law that allowed for employees that have worked in a company for 5 continuous years to demand permanent transfer from their 6th year. This means that the worker's contract will no longer have an expiry date and need to be renewed for him/her to continue working. This law only applies from 2013 and any work prior to this will not count. Once this occurs the company are obliged to give you work until your retirement age. Unfortunately to get around this law some companies have been laying off workers for 6 months and then reemploying them. At the moment this practice is being challenged in court.

The final point Chris made was that if you feel there's something wrong at work you should get informed and speak out. Also, joining the union offers a source of information to avoid trouble and protect from being exploited.
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