A union of foreign teachers at a public university in Kumamoto announced Friday it will launch a one-day strike against the school Wednesday over its allegedly unfair treatment of foreign staff — a strike they claim is the first among public school teachers in Japan.

“Japanese universities continue to refuse to let foreigners integrate into the university system,” said Cynthia Worthington, a teacher at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto who heads the Kumamoto General Union.

Worthington, who has taught English at the university since 1992, formed the union last year with six other foreign staff members discontent with what they say is unfair treatment.

She claimed many non-Japanese employees — despite making a full-time commitment — are classified as “special part-time irregular foreign teachers,” which means employment on a limited term and no bonuses or promotions.

“Most of the foreign teachers here are very isolated, vulnerable and terrified (of getting fired for small reasons), and there is virtually no legal protection,” she said, explaining an unsuccessful series of negotiations the union held with the school. “We decided it would be better if this all came out into the open. So we decided to hold a strike,” she said during a press conference in Tokyo.

Worthington was joined by two American ex-teachers who said they were unfairly fired at other universities. “(The foreigners) who are most vulnerable are those who invested the most in this country,” said Gwendolyn Gallagher, who taught at Asahikawa University for 12 years before getting into a legal battle with the school over her dismissal.

Timothy Korst, who claimed his contract at the University of the Ryukyus was unfairly terminated in March, said he felt like he was in a legal netherworld, devoid of protection.

The union’s strike will be accompanied by an antidiscrimination rally at the school from noon.

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