Not the way to improve business

Tokyo

Andrew Sheldon’s response to the Berlitz General Union’s recent victory in court strikes me as incoherent at best and more than a little disingenuous. He is happy to celebrate unions “if their values are healthy” and then goes on to condemn the demand for minimum wages as extortion.

Let’s pause for a moment and take stock of that. What might healthy values be if not a belief that workers are entitled to a living wage that allows them to cling to at least the bottom rung of society’s ladder without falling — or being pushed — off?

His assertion that workers in the West are not going to get pay rises for the next 20-plus years, while highly debatable, actually has nothing to do with the situation at hand. This is the East, after all.

In Sheldon’s eyes, there may be no entitlement to a pay rise for Berlitz teachers — even after 16 years, but the demand for across-the-board pay rises is not exclusive to the Berlitz union. It has been going on in Japan for the past 60 years, since the 1950s, in the form of the annual shunto spring wage bargaining.

Why deny Berlitz teachers the same consideration that hundreds of thousands of Japanese workers have received for decades? Is the Berlitz business model so fragile that it is forced to hold salaries down while tuition fees have risen? If so, teachers should not be blamed for the fragility of its business model.

If the problem is inefficiency, then the teachers can hardly be blamed, since costs in that area have long been held down. I do agree with Sheldon that the right to prosperity must be earned, but that goes for companies as well as employees.

If the Berlitz business model is lacking, then it shouldn’t seek to cut corners in addressing that issue by stamping on its employees and denying them the same consideration as other employees in Japan, and it should not matter whether those employees are Japanese or not.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

andrew ng