Why join?
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Different people join unions for different reasons. Some join in the hope of improving their working conditions; others to prevent a decline in their current conditions. Many, however, join for reasons of solidarity—simply because they believe in unions and in working to maintain the dignity of people's jobs. We believe these are all good reasons.
If any of the above apply to you, we hope that you will join with us and encourage your colleagues to do so as well.

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The Danger/Benefit Calculation

When a university hires an individual, they are generally governed by the same laws that apply to any other workplace. Although teachers at public universities, as civil servants, are not covered in all the same ways, they are protected by the Japanese Constitution.

Could I lose my job simply by joining the union? is a question regularly voiced. The answer is that it is not legal to fire someone for union membership. On the other hand, if you are on a limited-term contract (i.e. a contract which limits your term of employment, usually to one or three years) and you are not a union member, a university could choose not to renew your contract. If you are a union member, however, and the union raises the issue of your non-renewal, you are protected under the provisions of Article 28 of the Japanese constitution and Article 7 of the Japanese Labor Union Law.

What is legal and what is ethical are not always the same. Unfair treatment by an employer is very often judged legal, as when companies fire non-union employees for complaining about working conditions. On the other hand, some of the standard (supposedly ethical) practices followed by employers are, in fact, illegal. For example, some of the clauses in contracts that many universities regularly ask foreign instructors to sign are strictly in violation of both the constitution and of provisions of the immigration service.

In recent years, there have been initiatives taken by the Japanese Ministry of Education to pressure universities not to review the contracts of older foreign teachers. There are also moves to do away with the seniority system at schools, which would make it easier to fire any teacher—regardless of age and nationality—at the whim of administrators. UTU is working together with other Japanese unions to fight this type of anti-worker legislation. As a union member, you would receive the help of more experienced members in fighting limited-term contracts, unfair dismissals and other infringements of Japanese labor law. As an individual there is little you can do to fight against a university. Together with other teachers across the country, you can put considerable pressure on your school. But those who wait until they have their own problems before joining a union often find it is too late. It is never too soon to get involved.

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Anyone, regardless of nationality, currently teaching full- or part-time at a national or private university in Japan, is eligible for membership in UTU.

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Union dues can be considered as another kind of essential insurance premium these days with an increasingly unstable employment market. Dues are levied to cover two main areas:

  1. NUGW dues of ¥24,000 per year, to cover the cost of staff, publications, recruiting and organizing campaigns and actions.
  2. UTU dues of ¥6,000 per year to cover UTU-specific costs.

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Applying to join

Click here to apply online.

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Do you want to join?
Apply online
Contact: UTUJapan@NUGW.org
UTU Members:
Next OGM: May 12, 14:00
at Nambu HQ in Shiba
(maps & directions)