Union counter demands to MGT’s unilateral changes in work

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 begunto1@yahoo.com

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 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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