News from Zenroren’s Newspaper (January 2013)
Let us give the union the power to open up our future
In September 2012, two contract workers were promoted to regular full-time positions at Koyo Sealing Techno in Tokushima Prefecture, western Japan. The two workers are members of the Union of Koyo Sealing Techno Workers affiliated with the All-Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers’ Unions (JMIU). With this, all of the 43 members of the union branch have become regular full-time workers. The great victory was won through a united struggle put up by the union and its members. It will encourage all contingent workers fighting throughout the country for regular full-time positions.
Large corporations are resorting to illegal means to force workers to quit their jobs as part of their massive corporate restructuring plans. The stormy corporate attacks are threatening the jobs and livelihoods of workers. With Rengo-affiliated unions at major companies giving tacit approval of corporate tyranny, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) has an important role to play as a fighting union federation. In the 2013 Spring Struggle, we will work in all regions to increase cooperation between unions, the prefectural federation and regional federation and will develop all-out struggles.
Life has changed
SATO Yosuke is one of the workers who recently won regular full-time positions. He joined the union at the age of 18. He says, "Now that I am a regular full-time worker, I feel stable both financially and mentally. I am now able to think of envisaging my future life and old age."
HASHIMOTO Yoshio, who also won a regular full-time position, says, "I got married and had our own home. I am very grateful to the union.”
Recalling the path of the two workers’ struggle, OKA Masaaki, the branch secretary of the union, said: “Both Sato and Hashimoto did not necessarily ask to be hired as full-time regular workers.”
The problem was that they remained casual workers even after working a year in the same workplace, where they were doing the same jobs as full-time regular workers or even doing harder work than regular workers were doing, for only half the wages paid to full-time workers. They were looked down upon simply because they were casual workers. Contract was terminated for some of them before the term expired. Although most union members did not know the difference between temporary agency workers and contract workers, they were equally angry about the way the company treated them.
YABE Koji, former leader of the union, and some other workers decided to “shoot off a big firework” if they are forced to quit their jobs and launched the union at Koyo Sealing Techno in September 2004. In organizing the union they got help from the national headquarters and the Tokushima regional chapter of the JMIU, the Koyo Sealing Techno Union (the existing union made up of regular full-time workers) and the Tokushima Federation of Trade Unions (Tokushima-roren).
Support for the Koyo Sealing Techno union increased, thanks partly to media frequently covering the union’s struggle to get casual workers promoted to regular full-time positions. The union went on a 24-hour strike three times in defiance of various disturbances and made a step toward an end to the use of temporary agency workers in the guise of individual contractors, and the promotion of direct hiring and regular full-time positions.
We take proud in our jobs and seek to make the union trustworthy
It was a long struggle to get all casual workers promoted to regular full-time positions. All the more because of this, union members are sharing the joy of winning the promotion.
They are all determined to work much better than before.
MORIGUCHI Hideaki, secretary general of the Tokushima Federation of Trade Unions (Tokushima-roren) is one of the key supporters of the union. He says that the union members were able to fight in unity because “they are truly proud of their jobs” and because “their union is playing the key part of the plant and they have earned union members’ trust as a union capable of making proposals concerning their work.
TSUKIOKA Yujiro is a union member. He is confident more than anyone else in his quality control job. He says, “As a temporary agency worker I exercised patience and did not publicly express my opinion out of fear that I might lose my job. But now I will speak out while working primarily for quality products.”
The union branch, which has consistently been demanding that temporary workers and individual contractors be employed directly, will seize the upcoming 2013 Spring Struggle as the beginning of a new challenge. At a time when the task is for the unions to end precarious employment in which employers hire more low-paid disfranchised workers and fire them any time and provide workers with stable and quality jobs, this is going to be another test for unions. With a view to unionizing more contingent workers, we will work to build public opinion and the movement demanding the elimination of working poor.
JMIU Kani Kamo branch at Sony’s subsidiary
Sony EMS Corporation Minokamo Site on October 19, 2012, announced a plan to shut down its plant in Minokamo City, Gifu Prefecture on March 31, 2013. Under the plan, 770 regular full-time workers there will be transferred to other companies or asked to accept their early retirement. In Contrast with to that, 1,675 contingent workers such as individual contractors and temporary agency workers will be terminated.
The JMIU Aichi branch, the Aichi Prefectural Federation of Trade Unions (Aichi-kenroren), the Kamo District Federation of Trade Unions (Kamo-chikuroren) staged a protest in front of the plant’s entrance. They also held meetings to explain about the union, and carried out counseling to help workers solve their problems, in order to call on workers to join the union. As a result, several contingent workers joined the JIMU and established the Kani-kamo branch. The branch has a membership of about 100. The Sony unit of the union branch is now demanding that Sony Minokamo Site and three contractor and staffing companies cancel the plant closure plan and secure jobs for the employees.
On December 22, the unions concerned held a public assembly in Minokamo City, attended by 130 people.
Secretary of the union’s Sony unit MIMURA Miho said, “In talks with the contract/staffing companies, I realized that they are treating contingent workers as parts, not as humans. The company said, ‘We make efforts to secure jobs only for regular full-time workers.’ I was very angry because the company doesn’t care for contingent workers at all. Nevertheless, our struggle for our job security is being covered by the media. The problem facing us is a social issue today. We will protect jobs of all contingent workers here without losing sight of each worker.”
Vice leader of the Sony branch DATE Fernando spoke in Portuguese. He said, “We are still making our mortgage payments. How can manage to support our families? Our life is full of uncertainty. We would like to ask for your help!”
WATANABE Ken’ichi, secretary of the Kamo District Federation of Trade Unions, stated his determination to do his utmost to protect jobs, livelihoods, and the local economy while urging Sony to fulfill its social responsibility, and called for solidarity with Minokamo Site workers.