Unions join forces against the closure of local lifelines: Meteorological observatory and post office services

In the remote group of islands of Amami in Kagoshima Prefecture, southern Japan, a movement is underway to demand the withdrawal of the plans to eliminate the lifelines: the meteorological observatories, which are essential to the area which is located in the passage of typhoons, and the post office.

Since the plans were announced, local assemblies in the islands have adopted resolutions calling for them to be revoked. The Zenroren-affiliated district trade union federations, the local Rengo group and the local peace movement launched a joint organization to promote the opposition movement. In early October, various local groups, including the trade unions, will set up the gJoint Association for Thinking about Amamifs Futureh and initiate a movement to collect signatures from a majority of the local residents in opposition to the cutback plans. In preparation for its founding assembly, unions and other local organizations on September 11 began to press local governments to join with them in the effort to block the service cuts.

The town head promises to join the movement now

Setouchi Town Head YOSHINAGA Hidechika responded to the request from local union organizations for cooperation by stating, gI understand the aim of the movement. I will join it now. The elimination of the post office and the meteorological observatory affects the whole of the islands. I will attend the start-up meeting as long as I am not bound by any official engagement on that day. The town officefs general affairs section will take up the task of the secretariat for the signature collection campaign.h

On September 11, the organizations participating in the initiation of the campaign have started visiting various local organizations as well as local governments to request them to join the movement. On the first day, they visited three organizations - Setouchi Town, the Association of Towns and Villages of the Amami Islands, as well as Amami City ? and requested them to participate in the Joint Association and set up a reception desk for the signature campaign at each municipality.

KUBO Hiroshi, secretary general of the Association of Towns and Villages, promised to ask the group of the municipality heads to consider the request. gI believe the municipality heads agree with this proposal,h he said.

Deputy Mayor of Amami City ASATAMA Takeshi said, gThe mayor understands the aim of the proposed campaign. There is none who disagrees with it. The islands will be further depopulated if young workers in the public service sector disappear.

Joint effort is key to success

OMURA Mitsuhisa, chair of the Amami District Federation of Trade Unions, has led the movement against the cutback plans. He says: gThe elimination of the post office and the meteorological observatory has been put forward as two inseparable plans. We are confident that our opposition will be successful if we build up a strong movement in cooperation with all residents of the islands. Our movement will include individuals and organizations that are considered politically conservative. We will also try to create conditions for those who are unable to take part publicly in the movement to join us in one way or another.

OMI Shoichiro, chair of the local Rengo, a union organization that plays a part in the opposition movement, said, gAt a time when the islands are increasingly depopulated, this issue poses a serious problem. It will mean further cutbacks in local public services and the further widening of the gap between the rich and the poor. This is why it is very important to develop common action.h

On September 8, the organizations that initiated the movement held their second meeting and decided to found the Association for Joint Action in early October. They are now requesting various organizations as well as local governments to participate in the Association.

This is the islandsf first ever movement to aim to collect signatures from a majority of the residents. A great campaign will start in October.

Collect signatures from a majority of residents

Following the announcement of a greorganizationh of the post office network in the Amami islands, the Amami District Federation of Trade Unions requested the 12 local assemblies to adopt a resolution in opposition to the greorganizationh plan. Nine local assemblies have so far adopted resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the plan. The start of this union-led movement was reported on top of the front page of a local newspaper.

With a plan to close 46 meteorological observatories throughout the country by 2010, including those in Naze and Okino-erabu (the Amami islands) announced by the Meteorological Agency, the islands are now facing two major questions.

On August 14, the Amami District Federation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the Rengo Amami, the Amami District Peace Movement Center held a meeting to launch the gMovement against the Closure of the Post Office Network in the Amami Islands and the Preservation of the Naze-Erabu Meteorological Observatoriesh.

The cross-party gJoint Association for Thinking about Amamifs Futureh will organize the signature drive and hold meetings while making representations to Japan Post and the Meteorological Agency. (From Zenroren, September 15, 2006 issue)