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Labor bureau orders cram school to pay wages for prep, post-class work

SAGAMIHARA -- A labor standards inspection office here has ordered a cram school to pay 220,000 yen in unpaid wages to a part-time teacher for hours worked preparing for classes and writing post-class reports, it has been learned.

    The Sagamihara Labor Standards Inspection Office issued the advisory on Dec. 28 to Morijuku at Fuchinobe in the city of Sagamihara, an affiliate of Yokohama-based cram school giant Shonan Seminar, according to a labor union for cram school teachers called Kobetsushido-juku Union and other sources. The labor office acknowledged that non-class tasks such as preparation and report writing should be included in paid working hours.

    The move came after a 19-year-old student who taught junior and senior high school students at the cram school filed a report on unpaid wages in November last year. According to the student and other sources, teachers at the school are supposed to come into work 30 minutes before class to prepare and check student attendance. They must also respond to questions from students during break time. After classes are over, teachers must stay for about 50 minutes, writing reports, seeing off students and cleaning up classrooms.

    However, teachers get paid only for their classroom hours -- 1,500 yen per 80-minute class. The 19-year-old teacher asked the school to pay wages for work hours other than class hours, but his request was turned down.

    After the school was ordered to pay the 220,000 yen in unpaid wages -- accumulated over a six-month period -- to the student, a Shonan Seminar representative said, "We take the advisory seriously and will respond to the matter sincerely."

    In March last year, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sent a notice to seven cram-school industry groups, urging them to pay wages for work hours necessary to prepare for classes. However, improvements in the industry have been sluggish, with revelations in October last year that major cram school operator Meiko Network Japan Co. received a similar advisory from labor authorities for unpaid wages at five of its affiliated schools, according to labor union officials.

    In a labor ministry survey released in November last year, 57 percent of students who served as part-time cram school teachers said they experienced trouble with their employers over labor conditions. The respondents complained that they were not paid for class preparations or tidying up after classes, and they were forced to do work beyond their contracts, among other irregularities. The survey was the first of its kind covering student part-timers.

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