Rehire Francis!


Gaba has decided not to renew Francis Strange, who taught over 22,000 lessons over several years, who brought in a whole lot of profit for Gaba, satisfied many students and is popular at his Ginza LS. Francis is someone who stands up for his rights and the rights of his coworkers. Therefore, Gaba took a disliking to him and decided not to renew his contract.

Hats off to Francis, who stands up for his rights and fights. This is just one example of the many, many long-term Gaba instructors who are used and disposed of by Gaba all the time, but who usually just take it and move on rather than take a stand.

I’m continually amazed how Gaba overwhelms instructors, pressuring them incessantly, promising them things they will never get, always taking the client’s side when an instructor gets a negative evaluation. And we all know most negatives are tripe.

I love the “Instructor Voice,” where we can comment critically about Gaba but then the comment  is saved and used against us in interviews for Gaba positions.

I think it’s funny how we are always expected to improve our average at our own expense, go to unpaid training, pay our own trainfare, when the belts are capped at 15 and 30 respectively, so only 90 out of almost 1,000 instructors are able to get fair pay for their lesson, while a company that provides a booth, a computer and a text takes most of the lesson fee and give no benefits or support in return.

I think it’s funny how some instructors get visas held over their head and work 12 hours a day with no benefits, following Gaba’s strict dress procedure and methodology, under Gaba’s own roof and under constant pressure and competition to “improve” as “partners” or “contractors” while receiving less recognition, compensation and respect than almost all service workers in Japan, including toilet cleaners, who get transportation allowance, as is the custom.

I think it’s funny when ISL’s do first meetings, put the student at the wrong level and the instructor gets a negative evaluation. I think it’s funny when the ISL blames the instructor to cover his/her own ass. I also love how Gaba expects each instructor to read the mind of their client and adjust accordingly.  So if you follow the Gaba method to the T, and the client doesn’t enjoy the lesson, it’s your fault, not Gaba’s.

I’m not surprised when Gaba breaks the law, refuses to negotiate with its workers, lies to them, gets the most possible labour out of them at the lowest possible cost and throws them away when they are finished.  I’m not surprised they have a file on every instructor, make a document on every conversation with the ISL and ensure a paper trail on every instructor should they decide to speak out like Francis.

Hats off to Francis for risking his job to improve working conditions at Gaba.


October 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm 11 comments

Gaba Gaba Hey: Employment Relations at Gaba Corp. Nothing to Sing About

From the JALT publications (Japan Association for Language Teaching) website:

Gaba Gaba Hey: Employment Relations at Gaba Corp. Nothing to Sing About
Posted February 13th, 2011 by webadmin Issue: The Language Teacher – Issue 35.2; March 2011
Date: Tue, 2011-03-01
Writer(s): James McCrostie

Instructors teaching at Gaba Corporation continue to win battles in their fight to be recognized as employees, even as the conversation school does everything it can to prolong the war.

Gaba currently classifies its 850 instructors as itaku,orindependent contractors, rather than as employees. This means they fall outside the protection of Japanese labor standards law and allows Gaba to avoid paying benefits such as paid vacation or sick days. Plus, there’s no overtime pay and no limit on the number of unpaid overtime hours instructors can work.

Gaba also dodges the requirements (and costs) to enrol instructors in unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, national health insurance, and pension plans. Instructors, employed on six-month contracts, also lack job security. Gaba can dismiss any teacher, even without cause, simply by not renewing their contract. Moreover, the company can easily cut an instructor’s wages, which range from 1,500 to 2,200 yen a lesson, by demoting them to a lower pay scale.

Instructors first formed a union under the General Union umbrella in September 2007 but Gaba management declined to enter into meaningful contract talks, arguing that the instructors were not employees and therefore not covered by Japanese labor law.

In July 2008 the Osaka Labor Commission began hearing arguments into the union’s suit that claimed Gaba had refused to bargain with the union in good faith. On December 22, 2009 the Labor Commission ruled in favor of the company by recognizing some previously held talks as collective bargaining between the employer and union.

But, to the company’s horror, the Labor Commission went on to cite the details of class scheduling, training, and payment and indicated Gaba instructors had the right to organize as employees under labor law.

Despite having won the union’s suit, Gaba appealed the Osaka Labor Commission’s ruling to the Central Labor Commission in Tokyo.

The company maintained that because it doesn’t set working time or location and doesn’t give specific requirements for lesson content, its instructors were independent contractors and not employees.

The union argued that while the company allows teachers the flexibility to state their monthly availability, it controls the working time indirectly by setting lesson start and finish times. The company also sets the workplace, because all lessons must be taught at a Gaba learning center. The union also claimed Gaba controls lesson content by providing teacher training and having instructors ask their students at the start of each lesson if they want to use the Gaba textbook.

On October 6, 2010 the Central Labor Commission dismissed Gaba’s appeal because the company was appealing the wording contained in the ruling rather than the ruling itself.

Refusing to abandon hope in a final victory, Gaba is currently suing the Central Labor Commission at the Tokyo District Court for rejecting their appeal. On January 19, 2011 the first of what will probably be many court hearings was held.

Regardless of which way the Tokyo District Court rules, its decision will have an impact beyond the English teaching classroom. Japanese companies, eager to cut costs, have increasingly classified workers as independent contractors instead of employees. The government doesn’t keep official statistics but some estimates calculate the number of independent contractors at two million workers. The eventual outcome of Gaba’s struggle with its instructors may help shape the future employment landscape for many workers in Japan.

Further reading

McCrostie, J. (Oct. 19, 2010). Gaba teachers challenge ‘contractor’ status. The Japan Times. Retrieved from:

August 17, 2011 at 2:12 am 1 comment

Nichii Gakkan To Launch Tender Offer For Gaba

TOKYO (Nikkei)–Nichii Gakkan Co. (9792) said Friday it will begin a tender offer to purchase shares of Gaba Corp. (2133), an operator of English-language conversation classes, in a move to bolster its education business.

Nichii plans to spend up to 10 billion yen to make Gaba a wholly owned subsidiary.

The offer price is 200,000 yen per share, a 53% premium over Friday’s close. The tender offer will open Monday and expire Sept. 21. Gaba, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers market, has agreed to Nichii’s move.

Nichii said it will buy at least the 26,390 shares owned by Gaba’s top shareholder, Daiwa Corporate Investment Co. It set no maximum number to purchase.

Gaba operates classes at 36 locations in the nation’s three major metropolitan areas. The bulk of its students are corporate employees. The firm posted 7.75 billion yen in sales and 596 million yen in net profit for the year ended December 2010.

Nichii is seeking to broaden its lineup of educational services by adding programs that use the Internet to teach English. Even though its offerings have expanded beyond its mainstay preparatory courses for medical and nursing licenses, it is still struggling. The firm expects the Gaba brand to help it win contracts for corporate English training and to expand its online offerings.

(The Nikkei Aug. 6 morning edition)

August 7, 2011 at 1:36 am 2 comments

How would you evaluate Gaba?

August 3, 2011 at 6:08 am 2 comments

Another One Bites The Dust

Last week at my LS I witnessed the familiar sight of a coworker being dismissed – or ” not renewed” you might call it. This instructor had been with Gaba for over 6 years, putting in a full time schedule. He was popular with many students, had about a 90% blue-booking rate, and had taught many thousands of lessons to many satisfied students.

But unfortunately he received a few negative evaluations, mostly things unrelated to his English knowledge or teaching ability, from students who weren’t his regulars. Mostly new students who hadn’t really taken enough lessons to make an accurate assessment of what a “good” instructor really is. And really, what can you expect for 1,500yen?

Gaba, in typical cutthroat fashion, ignored all the years of labor this person had put in to the company, ignored all of the profits they made off this instructor’s back, and threw out this teacher, with a family, like a sack of trash.

July 31, 2011 at 8:01 am 5 comments

Union ‘counter-sues’ Gaba for 58 million

Someone at my LS gave me a copy of the union newsletter as I was walking to work the other day. On the front page there is an article titled “Union ‘counter-sues’ Gaba for 58 million” that is interesting and a little surprising. I found an online version here:

Basically, the union filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission because Gaba lied on their shareholder’s report. Then Gaba threw a tantrum and sued the union for 58,000,000 yen, which the union describes (and I agree with) as “an outrageous amount of groundless compensation.”

The union says its actions are protected under Trade union law, and by suing, Gaba is “interfering with union activity.” So they filed a third unfair labor practice against Gaba and Daiwa Corporate Investment Co. Ltd., who owns most of Gaba’s stock and has “an overwhelming management right over Gaba.” In the unfair labor practice, the union is demanding Gaba stop harassment of the union, intimidation of union members, that Gaba pay 58,200,000 yen to the union for breaking the law and interfering in union activities, that they hold collective bargaining with the union (which all companies are required to do by law in Japan), and that Gaba put giant apology signs at all their LS’s (would love to see that!)

At first I was surprised that Gaba would be so hostile, go out of their way to break the law and file lawsuits rather than just negotiate with the union over a few simple improvements in workplace conditions, like employers have done at ECC, Shane, countless universities and other eikaiwa. But than I remembered what an unethical and abusive company Gaba is that would rather drag their name through the mud and treat their employees like garbage than meet their obligations under the law to negotiate with their workers.

July 20, 2011 at 11:47 am 7 comments

Know Your Contract

The following rights are explicitly set out in your contract, yet often violated in practice. The company doesn’t want to pay you as employees, so they at least have to adhere to these things. Don’t let them have their cake (avoid paying you benefits) and eat it too (not give you flexibility).


You have the right to close empty lessons at any time, including R slots – even when there are no other openings on the schedule for that time. The staff doesn’t have the right to negotiate over this. If you want it closed, they are obliged to close it, no matter what the circumstances. And they know this.


You are entitled to be paid for all work. It doesn’t matter if you are an independent contractor or employee. Currently, you are being paid for lesson time alone. Anything outside of this, including preparation for LPA’s (e.g; filling out slips and bringing them to the counselors, retrieving the folder, etc.) or ISL counseling and training, is unpaid. You have the right to demand payment or to refuse the work.


You don’t have to be a “team-player”. You don’t have to open lessons to cover for instructor sickness that the company hasn’t budgeted for by maintaining emergency teachers; you don’t have to pay attention to studio demand when submitting a schedule. Why be a “team-player” when you don’t get the transportation pay and other benefits the “team” gets?

June 8, 2011 at 6:56 am 14 comments

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