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Statement on annual Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimate of trade union membership

By ODAGAWA Yoshikazu issues
Secretary General
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on December 14 published its annual estimate of trade union membership. It says that out of 54,470,000 employees, 10,054 are trade union members, an estimated 18.5%. The union membership decreased by 24,000 from the previous year. But, since the total number of employees fell about 80,000, the percentage remained unchanged. The number of part-time workers was 12,910,000, down 260,000 from the previous year. The number of part-time workers who are union members was 726,000, up 26,000, or 3.7%, from the previous year. They account for 7.3% of the total trade union membership and are estimated to be 5.6% of all part-time workers, up 0.3 percentage points from the previous year. A light decrease in the union membership and an advance in the effort to organize part-time workers indicate that the trade union movement and its organization structure have changed.

The ministry says that the membership of each national trade union center, which includes industrial and prefectural federations, is as follows:
- Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) 6,876,000, up 45.000 from the previous year;
- National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) 869,000, down 14,000;
- National Council of Trade Union (Zenrokyo) 133,000, down 7,000.

Rengo organizes 68.4% of total union membership, Zenroren 8.6%, and Zenrokyo 1.3%.

Zenroren’s survey (as of late July 2010) shows its membership is 1,195,000, which is made up of 845,000 members of industrial federations and 350,000 members of local councils or prefectural federations. Discrepancy between the labor ministry’s survey and Zenroren’s membership calculation is 326,000 (210,000 in the membership of industrial federations and 116,000 in the membership of local councils and prefectural federations). This is because the ministry survey does not count 100,000 All-Japan Pensioners’ Union members, 9,000 members of unions affiliated with Zenroren as observers, and 88,000 members of “local unions”. What is more, the findings of the ministry survey are used to determine the numbers of labor representatives on the Labor Tribunal and on the Labor Relations Commission. We are demanding that the ministry fundamentally change its method of survey so that it can grasp the state of unions correctly.

The ministry survey finds that the membership of industrial federations affiliated with Zenroren decreased by 12,000, which includes 5,000 in the Japan Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Unions (Jichiroren), 4,000 in the All-Japan Federation of Teachers’ and Staff Unions (Zenkyo), and 3,000 in the Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokko-roren) ? which are all public sector federations. Likewise, membership of Rengo’s public sector federations also decreased. At a time when job cuts, replacement of full-time workers with contingent workers, and cutbacks in public services by introducing the designated administrator system are underway, we are doing our utmost to stop such these measures and organize workers in unions. But our efforts have not yet led to an increase in Zenroren union membership. Meanwhile, the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions (Nihon-iroren) has recruited an additional 2,000 workers. The National Federation of Consumers’ Cooperatives Workers’ Unions (Seikyorroren), the Zenroren ? National Union of General Workers (Zenroren ? Zenkoku-ippan), and the National Union of Welfare and Childcare Workers (Fukushi-Hoikuro) increased their respective membership by less than 1,000. These federations are engaged in an organizing drive mainly targeting contingent workers.

In its organizing effort, Zenroren recruited 60,000 workers in 2009. Membership is increasing at 10 federations and 21 local councils or prefectural federations. These organizations are beginning to make real organizing efforts. Federations, local councils, and prefectural federations are working together to call on unorganized workers at work places and local communities while trying to let the public know more about the social significance and the role of trade unions. We are now determined to make every effort to successfully attain a peak in our organizing efforts.

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