Gaba makes the news – again

December 21, 2011 at 3:12 am 15 comments

Das booth: A Gaba instructor teaches an early morning English lesson at a learning studio in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. KYODO PHOTO

Gaba’s less than stellar working conditions have made the paper again. The Japan Times ran a story last year about conditions at Gaba and the General Union’s efforts to get the company to improve things. Last year’s article talked about how the company was ignoring the union, but yesterday’s article included the update that the company had sued the union for 58 million yen, and that the case had just been thrown out of court. It also mentioned that the Gaba had sued the government because the company was unhappy with a recognition that instructors were employees, and that the company had lost and appealed several times.

Gaba’s slogan is “Helping people achieve their most audacious life goals”. I suppose the company itself has the “audacious life goal” of suing everyone it comes into contact with?

Union-busting aside, the article also quoted a couple of instructors who had bad experiences with Gaba. One seemed to have a nightmarish experience of few bookings and a lot of harassment from management, memorably described his time at Gaba: “I would be sitting around in a booth — they would call it a booth, but I would call it essentially a prison cell — and you are expected to sit there until something falls off the cart,” he says.

I have never experienced this, but I have seen instructors who have their visa sponsored by Gaba and who are not popular enough with students, especially belt A instructors earning the princely sum of 1500 yen per lesson going through similar situations, staying at the LS all day for not enough lessons. And from what I’ve seen this is not very good for people’s mental health. It is easy to just blame such instructors for their own predicament, but on the other hand the company hires people knowing the instructor will not be able to afford to support themselves if they aren’t popular, and if the company fires them there is no cost to Gaba.

Another Gaba instructor who spoke to the paper had a nasty time with her manager forcing her to do early lessons she didn’t want, refusing to open the lesson slots she did want to do, and telling her to leave and go to another LS if she didn’t want to do what he said. This must be some form of “instructor flexibility” that I was not previously familiar with. I’ve heard of these kind of things happening but no one ever went public with it before. The instructor wound up quitting after a few months of this treatment. Gaba does go through staff at a tremendous rate, and they seem not to care.

There was also an interview with a union representative who looked forward to a better situation in the future now that Nichii Gakkan had bought the company and the management had changed. I think he might be looking through rose-tinted glasses, but you’re welcome to read the article for yourself and decide.

Gaba ‘contractor’ status under fire from staff, courts by Simon Scott, Japan Times December 20 2011


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bubbleboy  |  December 22, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Just read the article, that guys isl told him not to go and get lunch, and told him to look busy? Its one thing to do busywork when you are getting paid, to do it when you’re there for no money is a joke. His manager sounds like a real jerk!

  • 2. Johnno  |  December 22, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Sounds like that company’s idea of flexibility is bending over its teachers. I was thinking about going to the Gaba info seminar in Australia next year, but bugger that, I think I’ll look for work with Berlitz or another company instead when I go to Japan for my working holiday.

  • 3. Johnno  |  December 22, 2011 at 5:25 am

    PS, thanks for putting this info out – Gaba’s recruiting material is pretty bloody misleading! Working there looks like a nightmare.

  • 4. Grinch  |  December 26, 2011 at 2:47 am

    No Christmas bonuses are given either I guess?

    • 5. gabateachersjapan  |  December 26, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      Hello Grinch, There was no Christmas bonus of course. Instructors who worked over the Christmas weekend got an extra 200 yen per lesson, but that is about all the Christmas cheer Gaba could muster.

  • 6. photography course  |  January 5, 2012 at 6:05 am

    You have some genuinely beneficial information composed here. Good job and keep posting good stuff.

    • 7. gabateachersjapan  |  January 10, 2012 at 5:45 am


  • 8. Will  |  February 27, 2012 at 4:56 am

    This article was written about me, and I can confirm that working at GABA was one of the most unpleasant places I have ever worked. It is essentially working a job in high-pressure sales, it has nothing to do with education.

    1) There is constant pressure to perform well, if you receive negative feedback more than a few times you will be threatened with non-renewal or in some cases worse.

    2) Training, holidays, sick leave and transportation are not paid

    3) You cannot be sick. It doesn’t matter if you have to go to the hospital, if you call in sick you will be harshly dealt with.

    4) If you don’t play ball they will reduce your schedule (and hence your pay) as punishment

    5) They will sell you on the point that you have ultimate control of your schedule, but your ISL can refuse to change your schedule and can more or less make you work weekends and evenings. If you don’t cooperate with the managements will, you will not receive extra lessons and in some cases other instructors will spread crap about you to steal your students away.

    I would advise anyone reading this to do some careful research about this company before you come to work for them.

    • 9. gabateachersjapan  |  February 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Hi Will,
      Thanks for coming by and posting. I know what you mean with those points about the way Gaba currently employs its instructors. It is very far from what it should be – good on you for standing up and telling your story. I hope you’ve moved on to bigger and better things.

  • 10. Hiroko  |  March 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Stop complaining people. You should appreciate having a job!

    • 11. gabateachersjapan  |  March 6, 2012 at 6:04 am

      Thanks for your insightful comment Hiroko, you are clearly a very compassionate person.

  • 12. Gemma  |  January 3, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    I’ve been hired by Gaba and moving to Japan in 2013. I’m a bit nervous now cos I’ve only just graduated so I don’t have a lot of money to fall back on if anything goes wrong with Gaba… if anyone could kindly share any information with me about the Gaba system as of 2012/13 my email is Thank you!

  • 13. gabateachersjapan  |  January 4, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Hello Gemma,
    The first thing to bear in mind is that Gaba will pay you on the 25th of the next month, so if you start working in February, you won’t get paid until the end of March, so if you don’t have a lot of savings that could be difficult. Connected to that is the fact that bookings can be variable, and can also take a while to build up as clients get to know you.

    The Gaba system hasn’t really changed recently. The cases mentioned in that Japan Times article are extreme examples, but many similar things go on, so it is best to be careful. A lot of the staff at Gaba are quite decent, but there are some nasty people working there too.

  • 14. Gemma  |  January 11, 2013 at 1:04 am

    Thanks so much for your response, I just really hope I don’t experience this side of the company. Does it ever occur at Gaba where instructors just can’t get clients not matter how hard they try? Or is it relatively straightfoward? It’s just something I’m worried about as I’m not the most confident of people! Thanks again for any information you might have!

  • 15. gabateachersjapan  |  January 11, 2013 at 6:01 am

    It is a bit complicated. Some people are not suited for the job and don’t get booked much. On the other hand, while most people do tend to get a decent number of lessons, the amount depends on a number of things.

    You can expect to have to work a lot of nights, weekends and holidays to make enough to live on. Especially with the rather low pay rate of 1500 yen per lesson, it takes a lot of lessons to provide a decent income. Also, Gaba refuses to pay for medical insurance, so instructors have to pay for that themselves. Also, Gaba, almost unique among English schools (and most companies in Japan), refuses to pay a transport allowance, so instructors have to pay that themselves too.


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