Policy of deregulation that fails
- Taxi workersf federation rebuffs in 2006 spring labor offensive -

Four years have passed since Japan deregulated its taxi industry. Safety and sense of security are in danger, and workersf incomes have gone down, making it very difficult to make ends meet, contrary to a rosy picture painted by NIKAI Toshihiro, the transport minister at the time.

Nikai in the Diet said, "The change in the system will help improve services because operators will become more creative in offering services. It will raise expectations among users for better services" (April 2000).

Clearly, deregulation of the taxi industry is failing, and itfs time for the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry to review the deregulation.

EFive lawsuits against the state

In December 2005, 20 members of the Tokyo Federation of Automobile Transport Workers' Unions (Jiko-soren Tokyo) filed a lawsuit demanding that the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry revoke the scheme allowing cab companies to offer discount rates to corporate customers and that it pay consolation money to them. Five lawsuits of this kind have been filed throughout the country by unions regardless of national affiliation. Lawyer KOBE Masaharu says, "The aim of these lawsuits is to challenge the government policies by exposing the failures of the policy of deregulation in the judiciary system and have the administrative practices and policies corrected. Late last year, the transportation ministry at the Sendai District Court stated it would review the circular it had issued on the corporate discount system. The ministry has also said it will carry out inspections without notice.

Under the discount system, corporate customers that use 1,000,000 yen or more for taxi rides a month can get a 10%-12% discount. (Discount rates are subject to government authorization.) In Tokyo, this discount system is used by 67% of taxi companies with about 18,000 cabs. It is obvious that taxi workers income will decrease because most of them are working on a commission basis.

ESafety and sense of security are undermined

A survey conducted for the 2006 Spring Struggle by the Japanese Federation of Automobile Transport Workers' Unions (Jiko-soren) shows that 84% of the respondents said that their livelihoods are in difficulty. This is much higher than the 69% for those who responded in the same way in a similar Zenroren survey. Since the deregulation, taxi workers' incomes have decreased by 3.5% but their working time has increased by 1.1 hours. The Jiko-soren survey found that only in 12 out of 47 prefectures the average income of taxi workers is above that of low-income earners who are eligible for public assistance. In the same survey, 73.2% said it is very difficult to dispel sleepiness. In fact, the number of accidents resulting in sudden deaths has more than doubled since the deregulation.

EChance is here to review deregulation

TAKASHIRO Masatoshi, 44, the leader of the 20 workers who filed a damage lawsuit, has suffered a loss of 10,000 yen in income from his two-day work, or 50,000 yen in monthly income. He is preparing to expose taxi workers' harsh working conditions. He says, "We want to use this lawsuit to make known to the public how hard the deregulation has hit taxi workers as well as users."

The deteriorating work environment for taxi workers under the deregulation not only affects taxi workers' working conditions but is threatening the safety as well as the sense of security the public transportation must be able to give to passengers.