Japan Times covers the Berlitz Japan union case.

Hat tip to Sean Shawn of Let’s Japan, who sometimes starts my hit counter buzzing. The Japan Times has a Zeit Gist story today about the ongoing, multi-million dollar litigation between the Begunto union and Berlitz Japan.

One of my friends, Catherine Campbell, is quoted in the story. Catherine had late-stage breast cancer, which was diagnosed last year. (She is also one of the parties named in the Begunto lawsuit.) I learned about this last summer from her directly, but of course didn’t say anything here.

According to the article, because Berlitz Japan refused to cover Catherine under the employer-based Shakai Hoken program, Catherine had to return to Canada for medical treatment. (More on that, below.) She requested an unpaid leave of absence, which was granted. When she had to extend the leave, Berlitz Japan fired her.

Three points I am wondering about:

1) Since Japan and Canada both have enacted the Canada-Japan totalization treaty, why Berlitz Japan was able to deny Catherine the Shakai Hoken benefit? The Canada treaty, like the one Japan has with America, specifically states that each member party’s citizens will receive equal treatment under the social insurance laws. This means the actual law, not some lackluster standard of enforcement that Japan usually does.

I’m not Canadian, but I am confused why something like this isn’t a diplomatic issue at the moment. If a Japanese gets cancer in Canada, do they get reduced medical care and kicked out of a job?

2) I am not sure if Catherine was enrolled in Kokumin Kenko Hoken, which should have covered it. It may in fact have been a matter that the Canada program of coverage was more comprehensive? And also, that any disability benefit would have been better? I know that the unions harp (rightly so) on the matter that the Shakai Hoken is the best thing to be in, and that non-Japanese are routinely denied access to it. And what they should be emphasizing is that it is a treaty violation. But I do think something is missing in that part of the story.

3) If Berlitz Japan is screwing around with U.S. service members who are reservists, it really needs to be brought to the attention of Congressman Rush Holt, in whose district is the headquarters of Berlitz U.S.A. Even though Berlitz Japan is ultimately owned by Benesse, a Japanese company, it operates through Berlitz that is headquartered in New Jersey, right around the corner from Congressman Holt’s district office in West Windsor. (They might also give the embassy in Tokyo a try, just in case some of that federal money is being spent there.)

Berlitz itself receives millions in U.S. federal contracts. Right now, it mistreats our reservists and then takes federal money!

It’s good to have an update on the Begunto case, but sad to hear that much of the news has been unfavorable, except for Catherine’s coming through.