Striking TEFL Workers In Japan Taken To Court.

Hearings opened in Japan today with Berlitz Japan trying to sue leading trade unionists for their part in 11 months of selective strike action over pay. Whilst the union, Begunto, were unable to win their demands, it is clear that they have management completely rattled. They now see the potential of organised labour in this industry and want to destroy it before it gets any stronger.


It is incredible what this union have achieved, despite considerable scepticism from non-unionised teachers elsewhere in the industry and scabbing from non union members in their own schools. Their action points the way forward for TEFL workers around the world who find themselves employed in unprincipled academies run on naked greed.


Whilst we can be critical of their “surgical strikes” and “compensation for strikers” as this leads to division and passivity amongst members, we do recognise that they have had management on the back foot. Berlitz made two pay increase offers (insufficient considering the 16 years of cuts in pay and the huge profits for the business over the last year or so)  and are claiming nearly eight hundred million yen in damages as a result of strike action.


This is not the first time in Japan where battles between TEFL workers and employers have found their way into court. Berlitz seem determined to follow in the footsteps of NOVA, whose racism and abuse of basic human rights was only brought to an end when its unacceptable financial dealings with customers were ruled illegal and the company had to file for bankruptcy.


It is essential that Bergunto successfully fight off these outrageous legal attacks on its right to strike and that this excellent progress in unionisation and workers fighting back continues.







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4 responses to “Striking TEFL Workers In Japan Taken To Court.

  1. alexcase

    I hadn’t heard of accusations of racism against Nova, and I was in Japan when it went bust. Any links?

    TEFLtastic blog-

  2. marxistelf

    Nova introduced two particularly racist and unpleasant initiatives. The first was mandatory drug tests for foreign workers. The second was a ban on foreign teachers “fraternising” with students outside of class. This was well-documented in the Japan Times at the time but their archives appear to have gone the same way as Nova and disappeared.

    Both these policies were aimed solely at foreign workers and the Osaka Bar Association ruled against Nova on both ocassions.

    See Nationmaster for a discusion of the issues: and the original links

  3. alexcase

    Didn’t know about the drug tests, but I’m not sure for either of them racist is quite the right word. If they employed ethnic Japanese with foreign passports under different conditions to other foreigners, that would be racism under the strictest definition. And there sure is enough racism in Asia under that strict definition! For example, that is exactly the position in Korea. Ethnic Korean Americans get a different visa to all other ethnicities of Americans, and so don’t have to have the yearly drugs test

    TEFLtastic blog-

  4. Pingback: Dragging On: An update (of sorts) on the Berlitz dispute. « Marxist TEFL Group

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