A union exists for ailing teacher

Your article titled “Medical bills mount for ‘fired’ Tokyo English teacher fighting cancer, HIV” by Scott Simon (The Foreign Element, Oct. 22) omitted crucial information that would have helped the “200 teachers” the article cited as being currently vulnerable to the six-month contract and firings. There is a union formed among them — the University Teachers’ Union of Nambu NUGW. They have an active chapter at Waseda University International Corp. They are in dialogue with the management through collective bargaining.

Had you interviewed them, you’d get more information on what unionized teachers know and let the un-unionized teachers, like Neil Grainger was, understand what their options are through a branch that already exists for them.

Instead, you quoted unrelated union [rep Louis Carlet], who has no track record of helping these teachers, and would be the last person to be an authority on this matter.

Nerima, Tokyo

Cold-blooded decision

Waseda University International Corp.’s spokesperson Yukihisa Nakao may be simply doing management’s bidding, but he’s still a heartless [individual].

I often met this type of person when I taught at Waseda University back in the 1990s. Waseda UIC has ties to Waseda University, obviously. Foreigners employed by either institution are looked upon as a highly “expendable minority.” Neil Grainger at age 44 was extremely naive to place any faith in the promises of his employer.

Once he became gravely ill, WUIC wanted to terminate his contract ASAP. Japanese universities and corporations seem to have little if any sense of loyalty towards such foreign laborers.

It matters little that Grainger was a highly responsible employee at WUIC. Once he could no longer fulfill his teaching duties he was just a useless gaijin dog, a company liability. While the cancer surgeon was cutting away at the diseased tissue in Grainger’s back with a razor-sharp scalpel, the WUIC managers were going after Grainger with their cost-cutting knife.

How does one become so heartless? I almost admire WUIC for its cold-blooded zeal, which is so nihilistic and all too often typifies Japanese management: The corporation comes first.

Now that Mr. Grainger’s plight has been brought to the public’s attention, I suspect that WUIC management will be looking for some face-saving gesture. It might even offer the English teacher his old job back, but I doubt it. Neil Grainger is certainly one of the bravest souls I’ve read about in recent times. He’s displaying great fortitude and courage during the worst crisis anyone could possibly face: a life-threatening illness.

Pity there aren’t labor laws in Japan to protect the rights of individuals like this dedicated British teacher. In the U.S. or U.K., a corporation like WUIC would be facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit at this point in time — one that a plaintiff like Grainger would win in all likelihood. At least then his money worries would be taken care of.

I wonder how Waseda University is going to spin this latest public-relations black eye? Poorly, most likely.

Otaru, Hokkaido

Don’t blame Waseda for illness

I thought it was a misuse of my time to try to convince me that British teacher Neil Grainger is being treated unfairly by his former employer, who declined to renew his work contract in the midst of his ongoing cancer treatments.

It’s true that failure to renew a contract is the usual way of firing an employee here. It gives the impression of a harmonious parting of the ways and allows both parties to boldly lie about the situation, thus pandering to the social-harmony myth. So there is no misinterpretation about that: He was fired.

But I don’t understand how Mr. Grainger could ever expect the company to rehire him — despite glowing reports on his work for Waseda University International Corp. when he was working at his peak — when it is obvious that he can no longer fulfill the work. At least, not as a full-time teacher.

With no job, no income and terrible medical expenses, I understand his plight. But is any of that the fault or the responsibility of Waseda University International Corp.?

Almost two full columns of a five-column story were devoted to describing over-optimistically how well he worked, how successful the initial cancer treatment was, and how little it impinged on his work schedule. After that it was revealed that his cancer had spread, that he was facing even more medical procedures and eventual death, and in the midst of it he not only expected to keep his job but to get a promotion as well? I don’t get it.

The company needs a teacher in the classroom, not in the hospital. Instead of being angry at the company, let’s be angry at God. It works for me.


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