Japanese workers participate in day of international solidarity for fair wages and dignity for fast food workers
Day of solidarity action with low-wage fast food workers was held on May 15 in 29 locations in 24 prefectures, including Tokyo (as reported as of May 14) in response to a global action in more than 150 cities in 35 countries demanding a raise in the minimum wage and the workers’ right organize. The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), Japan’s progressive national trade union center, took part in the international solidarity action standing outside McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants.
About 30 people took part in the action near Shibuya railway station in central Tokyo. They carried placards that read the global slogans such as “Fair Pay, Respect For All Fast Food Workers”. Holding a banner reading “For at least 1,000 yen per hour anywhere”, participants distributed flyers to passers-by. Many young people received the handbills or stopped to listen to the call, showing interest in the call on them to join the movement to win a minimum wage raise and jobs that ensures people to work and live a life without fears or anxieties
Activists from Zenroren unions spoke:
All-Japan Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-Soren):
The taxi industry has many aged workers. Their wages are so low that they are unable to keep on working without pension benefits. Most of their employers are so-called “black companies”, which pay less for much work by depriving them of all basic rights. Companies should make efforts to increase profits by offering consumers good services or products at reasonable prices.
Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions (Nihon-Iroren):
Nursing care services have difficulty in attracting workers because wages are too low. It is essential to raise the minimum wage in order to drastically increase care workers’ wages. I call on all workers to join the union and make our voices heard.
National Union of Welfare and Childcare Workers (Fukushi-Hoikuro)
A worker fortunately got a job in his hometown after obtaining a professional license, but he was appalled to know that his income was lower than earnings he had had by working while going to college. This is a true story I heard. Raising the minimum wage is more than meeting each one’s demands; it is important to stress that a raise in the minimum wage will pave the way for encouraging people to spend money and revitalize the local economy.
Zenroren-National Union of General Workers (Zenroren-Zenkoku-Ippan)
Many temporary agency workers often face dismissals before the term of contract expires. In such a case, they would be obliged to find low-wage jobs to earn a living. Some of them have two or three jobs a day. A man was unable pay tuitions and his son was forced to quit the university just three months before graduation. What individual companies can do to raise wages is limited. The need is for the government to take a drastic step to raise the minimum wage.
Tokyo Federation of Trade Unions (Tokyo Roren):
McDonald’s offers the nationally uniform prices, so are fees for medical services. It is natural that the national minimum wage should be established. Forty percent of workers are contingent workers and there are 10 million workers whose annual income is below 2 million yen. We should increase our movement demanding more fulltime jobs and a minimum wage set at least 1,000 yen per hour so that everyone can work without worries about making a living.
(Note: In Japan, the minimum wage is set in each prefecture based on central minimum wage panel’s recommendations.)
Zenroren Vice President NEMOTO Takashi concluded the day’s action with a statement. He said, “Price war among companies is driving a race to the bottom in wages. About half of women workers are low-paid contingent workers. Many of the young people can only start their career as contingent workers. Let us fight to win a national uniform minimum wage of at least 1,000 yen per hour so that everyone can enjoy a decent and cultured living.”