Thursday, January 24, 2013

Early Retirement SNAFU in Public Schools and What to Do about It

A large number, perhaps most, of local government employees are being forced to take deep cuts in their lump-sum retirement pay as of February or March under local ordinances designed to bring them in line with national government employees. A good number of local employees who had reached the retirement age and were consequently scheduled to retire at the end of the fiscal year (March 31) are fulfilling rational expectations and retiring at the end of January/February, an act that that nets each one of them a tidy sum of money even after foregoing pay for March/February and March. Such action by public school teachers is causing particular commotion at their respective schools, which are in the home stretch of the school year and gearing up for final exams and entrance exams. The commotion has reached the ears of one Hakubun Shimomura, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who stated today, “I want teachers, who are in positions of responsibility, to fulfill their duties to the end. This will not do.”

Now, it is all and well to call teaching a seishoku (sacred profession), but it’s totally another thing to demand that they pay money to engage in it. Why, even TEPCO board members are allowed to draw salaries (and rightly so; or else no one would be willing to manage it, which suggests a subject for another post).

There is a middle ground, however. These retiring teachers could choose to teach through the school year at minimum wages, or even volunteer to do it for free. In fact, if the Japan Teachers Union wants to get in the good graces of the Abe administration and its superhawk MEXT minister, it should jump to the forefront of the action and make the proposal itself.

I rarely if ever make recommendations on this blog; it’s mostly about Japan these days and it’s an English-language blog for goodness’ sakes. But I’m making an exception here. If you have anyone near you in the public school system, this is your call.


Jan Moren said...

Police officers seem to be doing the same. Puts the potential "evil teachers union" line of argument in a bit of perspective. I'm curious to see if SDF personnel is doing the same too.

And who can blame them? If local governments are so short-sighted they don't even give it a year so people can leave in an orderly fashion with replacements lined up, then that really is their own fault.

From what I've read, some retirees do accept a short-term contract to the end of the semester. Asking people to please work for free for a couple of months is — or should be — a non-starter.

Jun Okumura said...


The police officers were the first to be noticed, though these two categories can be hardly unique. The two professions become news items, though, in the same way that they do when their members commit crimes, most notoriously of a sexual and/or violent nature. I did not comment on police officers because the absence of a few members in a municipality could be easily covered up, while missing teachers near the end of a school year would be harder to account for. I for one am not “asking” the retiring teachers to work without pay; I am merely suggesting that it would be good PR to the benefit of their brethren to “volunteer” and that it would be even better if they did it without pay. The protective world of public school teachers is under siege from the likes of the Osaka mayor; JTU could use a little strategic thinking.

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