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December 08, 2003

American School Operator Arrested

John M. Christiansen (49) and his wife, Mitsuko Kagawa (55), were arrested on November 25 by the Ibaraki Labour Standards Office (LSO) on suspicion of violating the Labour Standards Law over unpaid wages. The couple operate three schools in the Osaka area under the name American English Academy and have about 150 students. The charges relate to some ¥340,000 in wages unpaid to three foreign teachers between November 2002 and February of this year. The Berlitz chapter of the General Union claims to have heard of many cases of unpaid wages with this company since 1996. Most recently, the union managed to get payment of one teacher's wages and an apology through mediation in January last year at the Osaka Labour Commission. According to a GU spokesperson, "The arrests were inevitable considering that the LSO had already given the company 6 warnings and prosecuted twice. The problem was that the company still showed no real intention of improving the situation. Our union has long been pushing for the LSO to use their powers more against recalcitrant companies, and this, the first arrest of its kind in Osaka for 14 years, is a great step forward. We will now be pushing the LSO to take harsher action against all those companies who refuse their orders, and not to wait till the seventh refusal."

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