Union launches advice column: Dear Max

The union set up a yahoo email to be  more accessible to employees.  As we moved away from fax machines and teachers schedules over the years have spread out further in the week, we thought the yahoo address, begunto1@yahoo.com would meet that need.

Sometimes employees in many places face similar issues at the same time, but they don’t know it is happening elsewhere.  The union has 3 quarterly meetings where we ask members and shop stewards to report on local issues. Non members are allowed to attend.

Maybe we need more access.

If you have an issue and would like to ask the union, we are launching a new activity – “Ask Max.”

Here is how it works, you have a question or an issue you send us an email at begunto1@yahoo.com and we will print it up and offer you advice.  It will help you and others who might also be facing the same thing. You don’t need to be a union member to participate.  Your name and email address will be kept anonymous to readers and confidential.

So write us at begunto1@yahoo.com

Here is an idea of what you might read…

these issues have come up recently.

Dear Max,

My Manager of Instruction says that I am required to answer calls from the office on my days off.  Sometimes I get calls at 7 am waking me up asking me to come in to cover a sick teacher.  If I don’t answer my  phone my boss wants to know why.

Ringing in my Ears

Dear Ringing,

I looked at the policy book and work rules. I cannot find anything about answering calls on your days off.  The company can and most likely will call you on a day you should be working if you are late or haven’t called in sick yet.

Being called on your day off, are you?  You don’t have to answer any calls on your phone on your day off.

As to the 7 am wake up calls – if you want them to stop, you send your MI an email stating on your days off you do not want to be called and you definitely do not want to be disturbed by your MI.  Keep it on record.

Keep screening your calls.

Dear Max,

My MI doesn’t tell us when he goes on vacation.  This is a new MI to our school and he says we should call the Japanese staff if we are sick or deal with schedule changes.  That won’t work about calling in sick at 8:00 am when the LC opens at 8:15.  We don’t know who to call.  When you are sick, you don’t want to spend your morning on the phone. Is it too much to ask to be notified about who is in charge when the MI is away?

Not Happy in Tokyo.


Not Happy in Tokyo,

It sounds like your MI is already on vacation mode and you fend for yourself.

It is something you should bring up with your LCM (Japanese manager) and ask him or her what you should do, explain the established practice. Do this in an email. You can also bring it up in a quarterly meeting and push the topic in a public forum – that way more teachers can give feedback.

Dear Max,

My MI decided to move my contract lessons without my permission. Do I have any rights in this?  Should I be asked beforehand?

Bookish in the Capital


Dear Bookish,

Yes, absolutely.  Your contract is a fixed arrangement of time for pay which is a requirement in Labor Law.  Your contract must have stipulated work times.

There is a life beyond Berlitz and you have probably scheduled for it.  Send an email to your boss reminding him/her that the schedules you agreed to are what you want to work.  It might be a good idea to ask for a printed out template for your own reference.

Dear Max,

At our LC they told us the new posting each day for students and last point taught was a union demand.

Someone else said it was to replace the day sheet we used to have with the folder.

Is that true?

Questioning an Answer


Dear Q and A,

Absolutely no union demand was made for posting points for students. Currently the union is pressing MGT to stop making us work on our 5 minute breaks or pay us for the work we have to do in the break.

Part of that posting is probably to help teachers find a book without having to log into an iPad but the point remains reading a posting and fetching books is STILL work on a break.

By the way, the old day sheets did not list the last points taught.

Dear Max,

My MI gave me a smart goal of opening my availability.  Does this make sense?

I thought smart goals were for performance based issues- like teaching new materials.

Head tilted to the side.


Dear Head Tilted

Tilt!  I think your boss is playing the wrong game.  It seems the MI wants you available more to make his/her job easier, not to improve your work skills.  So how smart is that?

You open only what you want to work beyond contract. Simple.

Dear Max,

My MI doesn’t want to pay me for kids preps.  I am not a union member and my MI is notorious for stiffing us on methods and saying there is no money to pay for these prep times.  I mentioned it to the MI before but this one pretends there isn’t a problem.

What to do in Edo


Dear What to do,

Your MI is right, there is no problem as long as you don’t push for payment. HQ acknowledged teachers have the right to payment so if you spend 5 minutes to prep, you bill them 5 minutes’ work, and if you spend 10 minutes prep, you bill them ten minutes’ work.  HQ has told the union in collective bargaining you should be paid within the pay period or the following pay period. Send her an email asking for the unpaid time, cc her district MI (MI’s boss) and send a copy to HQ Mullen as well. If you really want, it you can have it.

Remember that you can claim back 2 years for unpaid wages- that is the statute of limitations.

Got a question?


Contact Max at begunto1@yahoo.com


Typhoon #8 (Neoguri) / Transportation delays and late slips

This is a message to let you know there is a large typhoon projected pass by Tokyo on Saturday morning.

If you are in an area where train service will be affected, remember to take a chien-sho-meisho when your train is delayed.  These are small slips of paper offered at the fare adjustment window.  You just ask for it, “chiensho meisho kudasai” and they will give you one for a train delay.  Sign it, photograph it for your own records and hand it into the staff when you do make it into class.

Some of the travels between schools are rather tight and a train delay will cause you to be late. Please get a slip even if it might delay you an extra 30 seconds to do so.  MGT documents each time you are late.

Bus service doesn’t offer chienshomeisho as a rule. You will have to check the local websites to see.

If you are injured on the way to or from work, in most cases the company is responsible. (You remember the teacher in Akasaka who fell and broke his leg on his way home after work due to snow outside the school back in February? He was hospitalized for several weeks. Berlitz had to deal with that.)

Make sure your MI (Manager of Instruction)  and LCM (Language Center Manager) have ways to contact you if they need to close the schools due to the storm. Make a point of checking in if it is your day off.

Be safe and have a good week

Paul Kennedy

President Begunto

Anti-discrimination training at Berlitz Japan as a mediation option in termination suit says judge.

A female African American instructor was terminated from Berlitz.  She has sued the company and is basing her lawsuit on wrongful discharge  The judge in civil court has asked the plaintiff and Berlitz to sit down and try to formulate a mediated settlement or go to verdict.

Testimony in this case turned up a few interesting points:

1.) The LC manager did not read all of the pertinent documentation before terminating the employee.

2.)The company lawyers questions to the plaintiff implied teachers should work on the break…as in going to talk to the staff after class/between lessons and preparing for lessons before the class.

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