Caffeine Cowboys and the Great Berlitz Strike 2008 till …..

Acquainting ourselves with our new premises at Marxist TEFL Group we felt it incumbent on ourselves to explore more fully the rich resource of articles available  on this site (or not available as they exist in draft form or notes). Without doubt one of the most intriguing  series of articles concerned the on-going industrial dispute between teachers and the Berlitz language school in Japan. Sadly, coverage of the dispute naturally and logically ceased when the site fell into disuse. This is not to say that people did, or do, not visit the old articles, wordpress stats show continuing interest, but that people have had to look elsewhere should they want to know how the story ended.

We (FFG) are delighted to report, however, a great victory (of sorts) because despite not wiinning their initial demands and despite continuing high court battles – the union held together despite incredible intimidation from management. In February of this year, the Japanese High Court dismissed Berlitz´s claim against unon activists (a claim of thousands upon thousands of Yen for organising illegal strike action) ruling in favour of the union on every single point.

It would have been so easy in the face of such intimidation (and great personal hardship) to surrender and for the union to collapse but it didn´t and these heroic individuals have fought a great hard battle not just for themselves and language teachers worldwide but also for the Japanese trade union movement.

There is a wonderful account of the dispute here by Patrick Dunbar where he talks about how management created a scab workforce called the caffiene cowboys (they were stationed in cafes drinking coffee awaiting management instruction about where they would be sent to the cover lessons of striking workers) and how even they were excited and surprised by the success of their union colleagues.

Maybe one day Ken Loach will make a film about these brave men and women, in the meantime we will do our bit to publisize their sacrifices and successes.

As MTG would have said, We salute you all!!

Here, here, here and here are previous articles by MTG on the subject. Our favourite, without doubt, however, is this little masterpiece of art critcism


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