Zenroren has to inform you with great sadness that Secretary-General INOUE Hisashi of National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) passed away on December 25. He was 53. He was elected Zenroren’s deputy secretary general at its convention in 2008 and secretary general of Zenroren in July 2014.
In remembrance of INOUE Hisashi
President of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
Secretary-General INOUE Hisashi of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) died on December 25. He was 53. I was so stunned by his too early death and was lost for words. Two weeks after his funeral, it is still difficult for me to accept Inoue’s death as fact.
I do not remember exactly when I met with him for the first time. As we were with different federations, it may have been at a Zenroren meeting or when we were involved in support of the National Hospital Workers’ Union (Zen-iro), which is a member of the Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions (Iroren) and of the Japan Federation of National Service Unions (Kokko-roren). I remember being impressed by his well-constructed speeches, and his uncompromising attitude and outstanding leadership.
In 2006, when I came to work at Zenroren’s national office, I wanted to work with him. He agreed to play the role of Zenroren’s deputy secretary general at Zenroren Convention in 2008. We have since worked together in Zenroren movement.
In late 2008, a tent village was created in Hibiya Park in central Tokyo for people who had been forced out of work as temporary workers and had become homeless to spend their New Year holidays. The project claimed media attention as a serious social issue. Inoue played a key role in support of those workers who came to the tent village, negotiating with administrative authorities.
The tent village initiative helped expose how cold-blooded corporations are in using workers only as adjustment valve. It was also contributing to visualize the unstable employment of temporary agency workers and fixed-term employees and the inadequate state of the safety net. It also gave rise to criticism of Liberal Democratic Party politics that puts emphasis on defending corporate activities and does not value the well-being of people. That was a major cause of change of government that took place as the result of the House of Representatives election in August 2009.
The tent village initiative also contributed to the labor movement by giving impetus to joint action by unions from different national trade union centers, leading to the formation of “Joint Action for Jobs”, which aims to win improvement of the worker dispatch law. Inoue put his energy into the development of the joint action, gaining trust of union activists who are not members of Zenroren.
On May Day in 2016, Inoue was the first Zenroren representative since the realignment of the trade union movement in the 1980s to speak in solidarity with the Hibiya May Day rally (organized by an organizing committee that includes the National Trade Unions Council (Zenrokyo)). We will not forget that this new cooperation was made possible by the effort that had been made by Inoue since the tent village initiative.
Another event that we cannot forget about Inoue is the labor dispute triggered by the dismissal of 165 workers at Japan Airlines on December 31, 2010. Inoue would give an excellent view on the general situation when we were involved in a nationwide movement that would have an impact on society. At the same time, he never failed to stand firm in support of workers rising and fighting against rights violations, providing a high level of leadership and coordination in the effort to resolve the dispute. He used the experience earned when he was the president of All Japan Federation of Student Unions (Zengakuren) and when he was involved in healthcare workers’ various labor disputes. His love of humanity was displayed fully in labor disputes.
Inoue became secretary general of Zenroren at its convention in July 2014. I have since seen him making efforts to use his experience to further develop the national trade union center, Zenroren has to deal with a variety of opinions and workers’ demands from different federations and regional organizations. It is responsible for planning and organizing the struggle for the demands by taking the interests of all workers into account. It also has the task of leading the effort to build up the organization with a view to regain union influence. Inoue had his design for all these efforts, which led to a consensus in the organization. An implementation of the design began at Zenroren’s Convention in 2016.
We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of Inoue. He has left his will and plans, including the launching of a fully-fledged struggle for social wages such as the establishment of the national uniform minimum wage system, the implementation of the four-year organization build up plan, and the realization of politics that rejects the Abe government’s plan to adversely revise the Constitution and establishes rules of work in line with the Constitution. I will hold on to these plans and pass on to the next stage.
I keep in mind the remembrance of the eight years of working together.
May INOUE Hisashi rest in peace.