Don’t Sign Unless You Agree

You Do Not Have to Sign

There are lots of things we are expected to sign at work.  Documentation is important and it must be correct.  When it isn’t and you sign it that is telling others the document is acceptable.  If it isn’t correct, your signature does not belong on it.

If you don’t agree with the content, then you shouldn’t sign the form.

If you are unsure about the content, tell your MI that you’d like some time to think it over or to talk it over with somebody in HQ about company policy or to consult with other co-workers who can give advice.

Or if you are given something to sign, ask the union BEFORE signing.

Don’t sign anything you are unsure of, especially if you are under duress.

RATER, and How Insufficient Travel Time Speaks to Our Customers

You should have heard about RATER since it is in our material to teach.  It is a system to understand a company and client in terms of how a company serves the client due to the client’s expectations.

The RATER Acronym stands for:

  • Reliability – your ability to provide the service promised consistently, accurately, and on time.
  • Assurance – the knowledge, skills, and credibility of staff; and the staff’s ability to use their expertise to inspire trust and confidence.
  • Tangibles – the physical evidence of the service you provide. These are offices, equipment, employees, & the communication and marketing materials that you use.
  • Empathy – the relationship between employees and clients.
  • Responsiveness – your ability to provide a quick, high quality service to your customers.

When an instructor is not given enough time to make it from one location to another, it demonstrates bad planning.   Bad planning shows a lack of professionalism.  MGT might try to balance against paying too much travel time, but when travels are so tight you will be late if the train is late or weather or crowd flow might play a big enough part, then it is best in the customer interest to allot more time for travel.

An instructor not given enough time to get to the next site to prepare for the lesson and not be able to get there in a professional manner does not demonstrate Reliability, Assurance, Responsiveness or Tangibles.  Racing in with a minute or two to spare due to bad/ unrealistically tight scheduling is simply flying by the seat of your pants- thus failing 4 of 5 RATER points.

Professionalism is a 360 degree concept.  The employees can only be professional when they have the tools available – one of those is responsible travel allotments. They need to be viewed as a major component of the company product and not as a “cost liability” to be pruned back like bonsai.

Satisfied customers return to a company that demonstrates professionalism.

Manager or Menace?

(From a recent Berlitz General Union Osaka news letter)

“Berlitz Japan operates under the simple structure of a hierarchical organization whereby immediate superiors communicate and command their immediate subordinates. When a superior behaves in an ethical manner within the confines of a clear set of company work rules, this structure can be highly efficient and maintain strong employee relations for the benefit of all. However, when self serving interests and a bending of the rules surface, the hierarchical business model can create an environment of distrust and shady work practices.

Manager or Menace?

The Berlitz Branch does not currently have a clear policy on monitoring the actions of MIs at each Berlitz Language Center but is kept well informed through both positive and negative feedback from members. There is a clear correlation between the high number of grievances coming from members at LCs where a bending of work practices as laid out in the Berlitz Work Rules and associated Policies and Procedures Manual is being implemented on a regular basis.

The relationship between a Manager of Instruction and  Instructors can make for an effective and harmonious environment or a sticky pit of putrification that can reduce the LC to a fragile house of cards.

House in Order

While dynamics offer a broad spectrum of MIs, here are three typical patterns.

• Balanced individuals with people skills who make a sincere effort to adhere to policy and balance the requirements of superiors and subordinates.

• Generally balanced individuals who over zealously put the requirements of superiors above all else to the detriment of subordinates.

• Misdirected or unqualified individuals who put their own needs first and lose sight of ethics.

We appreciate MIs who maintain a well balanced LC and challenge the less harmonious LCs to reconsider practices with a view to building an environment of fairness and trust.

We challenge upper management to reduce the number of grievances by

removing any grey practices (floating contracts, CTL abuse, method allocation dispute) to ensure MIs are not placed in a position where upper level requests are creating unfair practices.

We have always attempted to resolve issues internally but with each new generation of MI, the same issues continue to reappear due to temporary short term fixes. To ensure the new generations of members are kept informed, we shall begin to publicise grievances that are not given the long term fixes they deserve.

Do contracts have to move?

(from a Begunto flier)

Find the excerpt from an HQ response to the Union about employees never expecting to move their contract.

The union demand:
“A system to expedite requests to change schedules to consecutive days off.” Mgt’s response in their letter dated August 16, 2013:

“A contract is a signed agreement between an employee and the Company. Under the terms of the contract the employee is available and provided his/her labour to the Company as stipulated in the contract and the Company pays the employee and provides the working conditions as stipulated in the contract and work rules.

“At the time of employment the employee agrees to actual contract workdays and as such there should be zero expectation that contract workdays can be changed one-sidedly, within a time frame, or ever as contract days are placed where the company has a need for instructors. Even if a different employee resigns it may not be possible to give other employees the same working days or times.

“While we understand that employees may want to have two consecutive days off a week it may be difficult for the company to meet this request, especially in small Language Centers, therefore the company respectfully rejects the demand to implement a system to expedite requests for consecutive days off.” (end of their comment)

When you started working in your LC, you should have been given a template showing the contract hours you would need to work. They would be listed as “C” units and then anything else you wanted to teach would be your extra availability.
Your “C” lessons are your contractual obligation, and they should be set. 20 PTG should have 20 nonmoving “C” units each week. 40/40 Instructor contract will have 40 units of fixed “C” units.

The company cannot float/move your contract units around without your consent. No excuses of not enough lessons, they can give you prep time or material development units. There is a n LMA for 5 non-teaching units in a 40/40 instructor contract so each teacher with 40 “C” units should be teaching only 35. (LMA August 19, 2005)

If it has been floated in the past and you want it stopped, send your Manager of Instruction an email stating your contract time is fixed and you want it to be kept that way- no more floating. The email is proof.

The right to float a contract is yours as the employee, not your manger’s. You do not have to if you do not want to. Berlitz operates as a company, not a charity non-profit. If they ask you to work, they should be paying you. If you want it stopped send an email to your boss informing him/her not to float your contract.

According to a management letter dated September 17, 2013
“Please note that we do not require nor expect our instructors to work during break times. The breaks between lessons are important and necessary in order to allow our instructors (and our customers) to take a break from the fast paced Berlitz lesson.

Do contracts have to move? 

“Note that any work that needs to be performed outside of your Normal Working Hours and requiring additional payment may only be done upon the approval or by the request of your supervisor as stated in our Work Rules Article 15 (3).”

So if they are asking you to do anything on a break/unscheduled work time, you should be paid for it. That could be anything from meeting a sales person before an out-service lesson to filling out student evaluation forms or follow up to a lesson or anything else.

It is that simple.

On Hold but NOT Forgotten

(From a recent Berlitz General Union Osaka news letter)

Background To Recent Events

On October 28th, 2014 instructors received a personalized hand delivered letter outlining a set of changes to their contracts as well as notification of a new Full Time Instructor Contract. The Berlitz Branch union contested the arbitrary changes in collective bargaining on a number of points:

The announcement of arbitrary changes was made public without any preconsultation  which we feel violates one of our union and company collective agreements.

The changes were offering an overall pay increase of approximately 2.9% for an extra 12.5% work time and did not resolve linked outstanding issues that were still pending.

A significant number of instructors became concerned that well established work practices; National Holiday Allowance, Sunday Rate, Commutation Allowance, and the introduction of a degrading contract were introduced as part of a clawback action.

After NO progress was made in collective bargaining between the Berlitz Branch members and management, we served notice that a strike mandate was approved with a February 1st, 2015 deadline to begin the dispute. Prior to the deadline, we are happy to announce that the company took its plans for clawbacks off the table. We’re confident that a tripling of membership and a positive strike vote played a big role in having the company rethink its unilateral proposals. Since Berlitz has made this move, union members are continuing to negotiate with the company.

What happens now?

The strike has been postponed, but not cancelled, and we are hoping to win our demands to improve wages and working conditions at the bargaining table.

What can you do?

Members can continue to have a voice through our various modes of communication and are actively encouraged to volunteer for our bargaining committee. This allows all members to direct our actions and be part of the decision making process. The Berlitz Branch is simply you and your colleagues, backed up by General Union members in language schools, universities, and other workplaces across Japan.

Management has set up an e-mail address for you to send any questions at

For Berlitz Employees in Tokyo, you can go through your union, Begunto

Where Begunto is so far:

Each January we here in Tokyo at Begunto have our Annual General Meeting (AGM). We deal with Shunto (Labor) Demands, Voting for Execs, and following up on other items.  It is part of our legal obligation under Trade Union Law to have this meeting. Shunto demands are democratically voted on items that the majority of the union supports.

3 times a year the union has Union Assemblies (UA). Shop stewards discuss localized issues and vote on items which the union will address with management in Shunto Collective Bargaining (CB).

The Union submitted the 2015 Shunto demands in January.  The 2014 demands are still on the board. So the 3% wage increase demanded last year is still being negotiated along with the 3% for this year.

One key demand that we have had since 2007 was pay for work.  Basically those on shakai hoken and those people tasked with many off schedule duties need to be paid for the work they do.  The majority of union members agree with this and voted we demand payment from MGT.

We have demanded this and in the past 7 or 8 years MGT has always said “No.” in negotiations to paying us for work done outside class time. Their reasons being: it doesn’t exist as work, we have no way to know if you work, it is a toilet break, etc.

The union membership May 2013 in a UA voted we press MGT for payment.

Unpaid wages:

I prepared time sheets (nippo) to show the Labor Standards Office (LSO) at Mita (local city government office) that work was indeed done in break time.  In December 2013 I submitted my claim to the LSO. They told me to send a demand for payment for August 2013 to Berlitz again using their format. Berlitz refused. They informed me in January 2014 my claim was substantiated by the LSO and contacted Berlitz to pay not only the one month but for 24 back months as well-the claim was approximated at 500,000 yen in back wages for 7-8 units of work each month. Berlitz refused. The LSO set three more deadlines and each time Berlitz refused.  The LSO made a surprise inspection on a day with little lesson activity and found that in a near empty school no work was being done on break time.  (Originally we asked them to come on Saturday or Sunday which are high density days, the LSO officers declined because those were their days off.)  The LSO stated if we did not accept the finding of the snap inspection, that we could take Berlitz to court and demand back wages.

Other teachers also sent in demands for back pay to the company. Berlitz also responded with the same boiler plate response of not expecting work from teachers in break time.

Our legal right:

Our parent union is the National Union of General Workers (NUGW) at Nambu (Tokyo South)- we refer to it usually as NUGW or Nambu.

Their president, Mr. Hiraga has told us that the company is responsible for controlling our work.  They should not make you work in break time, because it is supposed to be for rest and is not recognized as work. However when you are required to work in a break, the company must pay you- it is a legal requirement.  This is what the union is pursuing- that the company pay us for work related activities.  This is our right.

We have not begun litigation yet-that is the court system, so if someone is telling you it was already solved and litigation was already done-they are misinformed. Litigation is a venue we can pursue. The court is a higher level than LSO. If someone is saying it has been litigated already they are in error.

The union position on 50/60

As to the demand for not having a 50/60 contract, that and the back pay problem are two separate issues.

They share one commonality.  The union sees the break as being used for work and wants it treated like work. And suddenly so does MGT. After years of telling the union teachers never work on a break, they want us to work on a break. So recognize that we have always been expected to work on a break and pay those who want to be paid.

The big difference is that the union opposes the 50/60 contract because MGT will use this to swallow up per lessons that per lesson, mg and ptg teachers would normally teach and have taught before the contract is introduce. The 50/60 contract will take away from the big per lesson pie that is available to the teachers who already work in the company- which we see as a diminished labor condition. It is something we want to fight against.

The company says they need to attract more employees. The new contract doesn’t make sense as it makes new employees come in early, stay late and teach far more lessons than the current 40/40 for not much more money. (165,000 yen more a year for the new 50/60 but no CTL, no completion bonus, a floatable contract but you will get 3 sick days and 3 personal days.)

50/60 is unacceptable:

Unless MGT guarantees that there is a cap on lessons – say 35 lesson a week to teach maximum and that per lessons will always be made available for teachers in per lesson time, we cannot accept the new contract.

Currently MGT has a loosely worded (Labor Management) LMA saying 40/40 teachers teach 35 lessons but might teach more do to the business situation of the school, but most times the lessons are just put there with no attempt to fill those 5 units each week with methods or offices or development time.

Union members are encouraged to support the union in defeating this move by MGT to save money at our expense.

Increase the base pay with an across the board raise for all:

Our wages go up and down if there are lessons.  Our wages never really go up by much with MGT stating each year the past year was a difficult year. They have been saying that for decades and the truth is inflation and increased taxes have made our wages miserable. The company should recognize that professionalism and loyalty are not commodities an employer just gets by snapping fingers.  250,000 yen a month doesn’t buy the same as it did in 1997 in Japan.  And what will MGT do when new teachers get hit with their first residents tax bills one year after they start working and people realize more is taken out of salary? Watching your second year’s take home pay equal less than your first year’s doesn’t help employee retention.

It’s time for MGT to bite the bullet, open their wallets and shell out more cash for those of us who work and work hard for the company.  Our message to the company is simple.

“Respect us and treat us fairly.”

Berlitz General Union Tokyo

2015 Union Demands

(Each year the Union assembly formulates demands we present to Berlitz Japan Management on behalf of the workforce.)

  1. Rescind the yearly renewable contract – go back to the automatically renewed contract
  2. The company work with the union to improve the quality of the materials
  3. Reduce teacher turn over
  4. CTL/no show policy be uniform as in past practice for new employees
  5. New instructors be governed by same arrival and leaving time as current teaching staff as in past practice
  6. Because of tuition increases and sales tax going from 5% to 8% Begunto demands a 3% base increase for all employees of seniority, performance and rank
  7. One month bonus for all employees
  8. Pay for work during non-scheduled work time
  9. The company negotiate with and obtain the consent of Begunto before implementing any policy change or initiating any new policy
  10. Company immediately re-enroll all teachers kicked off Shakai Hoken or private pension scheme
  11. The company enroll all employees who wish to be on Shakai Hoken
  12. The company pay five minute intervals before and after each scheduled unit of work at the instructor’s unit rate
  13. The company provide safety training for all employees
  14. Raise pay scale ceiling

 January 8, 2015 Berlitz General Union Tokyo Collective Bargaining

Berlitz General Union Tokyo sets its counter demands to MGT’s proposed changes from March 18, 2015.

Our Collective Bargaining was January 8, 2015

Our Demand: If you want us to work between the classes, 5 minutes is a 12.5% increase in wages for 12.5% more working time.

MGT says the 200 yen across the board increase is a 70 yen payment for time to work between classes and the 130 yen is to compensate for MGT unilaterally removing the National holiday allowance and spreading out the proceeds to all.  The unfairness is working 5 minutes and getting paid 70 yen – you are being paid under minimum wage between lessons.

We also asked if Berlitz will back pay for the activities it considers work between classes.

Our Demand: The rest day rate remain 135% for Per Lesson Teachers and PL rest days be fixed days

Per lesson teachers have until now had a set day given as a rest day. MGT wants to change that with – we will only give teachers 135% rate on the 7th day straight of work. One argument for having a fixed day is MGT requires teachers to give advance notice to take a day off.  How do you ever know when your 7th day will be?

So for now, if MGT asks you to work on your rest day you will get 135%. If they can change this they will be only paying you your base rate. A 35% cut in earnings on your day off to work is a big deterioration in working conditions.

Our Demand: Keep the Holiday allowance for Per Lesson teachers.

There are many teachers who are not eligible for this holiday allowance to begin with and it is being shared out with those who don’t usually get it. This dilutes the amount that teachers who would have qualified will lose out on. It is a detriment to those who previously qualified.

Our Demand: MGT needs to lower the qualification of Shakai Hoken numbers to qualify for entering and staying in the system. The threshold they use is about 67% percent.  

MGT says they will look into it.

We asked if we could see the actual documentation from the Shakai Hoken Office and they said it was confidential. We asked “confidential from the Shakai Hoken office side or the Company side?” They company doesn’t want to show us the documentation.  We asked for the name of the Shakai Hoken officer so we could talk to him/her. Again the company said no.

Our Demand: Those who receive 17,000 yen commutation and want to maintain that due to past practice should be able to keep it. Others who wish to go on a pay as you go commutation should be allowed to choose.

MGT says they want to change payment practice. They need consent from the employees first. Some instructors live closer and have used part of their commutation allowance as salary- the conditions that were stipulated when they originally signed their contract.  To lose money would be a deterioration in working conditions.

Our Demand: MGT be more transparent with Notices and Policy Changes

We are now discovering policies that were not published in the Policy and Procedures manual.  MGT says updating the books is difficult. With the bloated numbers of staff in HQ can’t they keep the basics current?

Some of these policies are

  • Teachers only have to work 6 in a row- yet to be published in a clearer easier way to read.  Some teachers were being scheduled 7-9 units without a full break. (It was amended 2 years ago- still not updated)
  • The changes in contracts from automatically renewable to one year renewable that took 5 months to be posted on bulletin boards.  It is a big change that employees should be made aware of. It is a breech in fair negotiations when a policy is negotiated and then not published.
  • There is a “development” rate where MGT lowered the 1900 yen method rate for training to 1,000 yen. It is nowhere in the policy book. The union was never consulted and that could be a violation of a Labor Management Agreement.

Our Demand: MGT clarify duties to be done in lesson and between classes

The issue is being made to work and not being paid for it.  We asked for more clarification. The lawyers say we have already discussed it.  Time to take the billable hours back to the LSO.  This time last year Berlitz was informed an employee submitted a claim. The LSO found work had been done.  Berlitz refused to pay for work done between classes claiming there was no authorization.

Our Demand: Berlitz negotiate in good faith

The lawyers delay many issues by going back and repeating.  In the December meeting MGT had to remind the lawyers that they were in a place of business and classes were taking place so keep the noise down.

This last negotiation on January 8th there was a strong coincidence of legal coughing only when MGT was saying something we wanted on recording.  A couple of times we had both lawyers coughing in unison.

Our demand:Berlitz to clarify that no employee information was leaked in the Benesse Info Leak.

MGT’s response was they gave us one. That was back in September.  There have been further developments, yet MGT’s response was “We gave you a response.” We asked for them to repeat what they said back in September, they refused to repeat their official response. And they refuse to give one in writing.  Why?

Since Benesse is our parent company we do not know how much of our information is held or is accessible.  Berlitz salary/pension/health insurance is administered in conjunction with Benesse but there are other companies involved as well. We as employees have absolutely no idea where our information is held or where it is beings went for processing.

This month the company unilaterally shifted our salary information to a website access from the paper to employee process. How secure is this new system?  MGT had no response.  That is why we asked for a clarification again.

A work in progress for new contracts and new 40/45 minute lessons

As for the changes in working conditions, MGT has said this is a work in progress and that nothing has been settled yet.  According to MGT about 30% of the instructors attended the info sessions in November and December.  MGT says they now have to take these opinions upstairs and discuss them.

If they do make changes, there will need to be employee participation in amending the work rules.  We asked MGT to give us a list of the proposed changes so we can start going over them.

They want a list of things we want to discuss next meeting.

Changes from 40 minutes to 45 minutes…are they worth it? Union Exec meeting with MGT November 10, 2014

The changes in lesson time from 40 to 45 minutes

 MGT says the change over is a work in progress:

The union exec and Mr. Coke met with MGT in Shinjuku today to discuss the changes in contract they want to do in March 18, 2015.  So far they say it is a work in progress though many feel it is a done deal and MGT expects us to take what they offer – which falls short on the definition of negotiation. Since 2007 we have demanded to have any work in break time recognized as work and to be paid for it. This plan by MGT was unilaterally submitted to the workforce.

MGT can be held accountable for unfair practices in Trade and Labor Law:

We informed management that the way they distributed the information was a violation of Union Trade Law and we will address this with them – one option is to take them to the Labor Commission for negotiating in bad faith by sidestepping the union and informing employees before us as well as unilaterally establishing working conditions that we demanded and were not allowed to negotiate in. MGT was also told that we could sue for lost wages for back pay for the work we have been doing on our breaks and for all lost wages after March 18, 2015. Osaka Berlitz Union “Begun” also formally protested.

What the 45 minute lesson looks like:

MGT offered a few insights to how they see the lessons broken up.

3 minutes of the break and 40 minutes of lesson and 2 minutes of break will equal the new 45 minute lesson.  3+40+2=45

Where the 200 yen “raise” will go:

The 200 yen they say will compensate us for the time we do work in break is also expected to help cover the lost holiday allowance.  40% of the increase is for work in break time and 60% increase for offsetting lost holiday allowance. So your 200 yen raise for PL has to do double duty. Looking at it this way the 200 yen will pay 80 yen to work in break and 120 yen to offset lost earnings in holiday pay.  Sounds good?  5 minutes work in break is 12.5% of your lesson time.  Is 80 yen 12.5% of your pay for a lesson? No. 80 yen is about 2 minutes.

When we asked MGT why they were changing they said  it was to improve communication with staff and also the union demands.  

We asked about back pay for work already done on breaks, MGT told us to pursue it through union negotiations.  OK, we will.

Wages up or Lesson count change:

Almost every contract will have a reduced lesson count, though MGT stated they might leave the PTG 20 alone and raise the monthly salary.

The 11th lesson will be overtime. Anyone with 11 or 12 lessons on a single day will have them taken back to 10.  MGT says you can work one more lesson if you WANT to, but don’t have to.

 MGT insists the rest day for PL teachers doesn’t apply and they will insist on paying it if and when you work 7 days in a  row.  What about Contract teachers who have an actual designated rest day and work extra lessons in PL?  They are being treated differently and it is unfair to PL teachers.

New full time contract:

The new contract templates have an additional 10 minutes at beginning and end of the day for you to help the staff with in school work:find data, talk to staff, (open or lock up school-if students leave on time?) fill out forms from staff. According to MGT a big reason why teachers leave is “a lack of communication with staff “so by making full time teachers stay around 10 minutes before their shift and 10 minutes after their shift they will be able to help the full time teachers develop other skills in the LC.  (Brace yourselves, those of you who take the new full time contract cannot go home at a CTL last lesson because you still have to put in those last 10 minutes every day- unless MGT says otherwise.

The new contracts will also take up more lessons (and those earning per lesson will lose out) and not have a completion bonus. In effect the new contract rate will be around 10% per lesson less than current 40/40 Instructor gets . There is no completion bonus.

Do we have to sign:

We asked what will happen if teachers refuse to sign.  First off MGT said if a teacher has been working several years there is no reason to see why they wouldn’t be renewed according to MGT Nov. 10, 2014.  So for long term instructors or those who renew a few times you can expect to be automatically renewed.  However, if you want to protest the changes in the contract and demand changes you will need to do so in a protest through the union and maybe even a petition that would include non-union workers.

We asked if we could refuse to take the new conditions because it is a unilateral change in working conditions.  MGT stated the changes would be across the board from March 18, 2015.

New work rules/policies for any changes:

Basically the work rules and policy and procedures will also need to be rewritten again. That means employee representatives will be chosen from each LC.  This happened back in 2005 and 2012.

New Contract – the full time:

The new full time contract will have various templates.  One is a daytime shift from 8:20 to late afternoon with 2 units as breaks.  Another is an early afternoon template from 12:50 to end of day with 2 breaks. The third and forth are the unpopular split with a cluster of 4 or 5 in the morning and or evening of which one unit in each morning and evening must be a break.  Those working on Saturday and Sunday will teach only ten with 2 breaks- but MGT hopes that with the weekends being busy you will want to teach an extra lesson and give up half your lunch break voluntarily.

Benefits qualification due to numbers changes:

As for Shakai Hoken the 198 to get on will be lowered to 176 so the union asked if the 176 to stay on would correspondingly be reduced to 154- it would seem logical as 198 to 176 to get on then 176 to 154 to stay on would seem a proportional adjustment reflecting the weight of the 45 minute lessons.  MGT says they aren’t sure yet…..?

Another issue not mentioned at this meeting is the union demand to prorate the number of days as holidays- it seems strange that to be treated as a regular employee you would need to work on the national holidays that regular workers get just to qualify for National Insurance.  We figure it should be 8 lessons fewer for any holiday but Xmas eve which should be 4 fewer. So for example if the new number is 154 and you don’t get a holiday allowance towards that number then the 154 should be adjusted to 146 to reflect the 8 lessons per day you would usually work. (Currently the company only pays you 6 units per holiday in National Holiday Allowance if you teach 120 -6unit for each holiday.) 176/22=8 units a day is the rule they seem to be using.  What if there are 4 holidays in that qualifying pay period- should you have to work on a holiday to meet numbers?

Changes to travel pay:

The travel allowance of 17,000 will be changed to actual pay. For some this is a good thing, for others it is not.  If you live close to your school you will lose out. And if you live far away you can get more pay for actual travel. A long time ago when the government changed the law on basic minimum wage for English teachers it was established at 250,000 yen,

MGT said no to increasing travel pay.  Travel pays have not gone up since 1993 when they were cut from lesson rate. In the meeting MGT wanted to know why they would need to raise the travel rate- their opinion was the work done is the same.  We said we are traveling 12.5% longer in each travel so we should be paid for it. A travel currently is 40 minutes and pay hasn’t been increased in 20 years and for many people the travel is now less than half of their pl rate.  So they want to make it 45 minutes. Now there will be an even bigger discrepancy.

Attend the meetings:

I would urge each person to look into attending these town hall meetings at the end of November and early December.  It is in your own best interest.  Show up and show them this means something to you.

If you haven’t yet done so, reserve a seat for the upcoming PAID information sessions

on November 26, 27, 28 and December 1 in Hamamatsucho LC or

on November 25, December 2, 3,and 4 at Shinjuku LC.

You have the right to ask MGT questions if you are unclear about changes in your working conditions.

Applications can be found on the union board or at our website:

Fill it out and submit by email to

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, 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 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

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


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

This is a message to let you know there is a large typhoon projected to 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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