Zenroren and allied unions held May Day rallies across Japan. Due the pandemic, many federations chose to cancel a big rally and demonstration, but we had online broadcasting for participants. In Tokyo, Central May Day Rally was held at Yoyogi Park, and the ceremony was broadcasted on YouTube. The below is the speech by Obata Masako, Zenroren president.
Speech on behalf of the Organizing Committee of the 92nd May Day
Coordinator of the Organizing Committee of the 92nd May Day
President of the National Confederation of Trade Unions iZenrorenj
May 1, 2021
We are meeting online for the 92nd May Day. Greetings to all workers participating in this celebration from around the country. I am Obata Masako, president of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren). Allow me to speak on behalf of the Organizing Committee.
With the coronavirus infections surging and healthcare services and public health services reaching a breaking point, we are compelled to meet online for this year’s May 1st celebration. But unlike our last year’s event, we are live-streaming the event from Yoyogi Park to extend our solidarity with you all who are watching.
Last year we observed the centenary of Japan’s May Day. Over the past year, with the coronavirus pandemic spreading unabated, we have put together our wisdom and power to organize efforts to realize the workers’ demands at workplaces and local communities despite various new difficulties.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight three points.
First, our unions are giving priority to the effort to save people’s lives. Due to the spread of contagious coronavirus variants, hospitals and public health services are reaching a breaking point. In some areas there are medical institutions that are almost collapsing. All these problems have been caused by neoliberal policies, which put efficiency first, leading to cutbacks on public services. The need now is to fight to win more money to increase staffing levels and reinforce the systems for health care and public health services. In the Diet, the government is trying to railroad measures that go against the effort to save people’s lives. One is a bill to increase the patients’ share of medical costs for elderly people 75 and older from 10 percent to 20 percent. Another is a bill to push ahead with reducing hospital beds by using revenue from the consumption tax. At a time when people are enduring the pandemic, we must not allow the government to make light of people’s lives. Our slogan is “Save the lives.” Let us join forces with workers of all sectors as well as health care professionals and people at large to step up the common efforts, such as signature collection.
Secondly, we are fighting to secure the jobs and livelihoods of workers in times of a coronavirus pandemic. The capitalists are trying hard to avert their financial losses by shifting the adverse impact of the pandemic on to the workers. Women and contingent workers are particularly forced to endure the contradictions. We are fighting to secure jobs and get workers compensated when they are temporarily out of work due to business closures under the pandemic. We have won some results. But at a time when more than 100,000 people are thrown out of work due to coronavirus-related problems and infections are spreading, it is obvious that securing jobs would be even more difficult when workers are out of work or left without enough compensation or subsidy. We need to increase the movement taking on the government that is turning its back on the people’s hardships.
Thirdly, we oppose the “growth strategy” which the government and the business sector are implementing by capitalizing on the disaster caused by the pandemic. We are fighting to eliminate economic inequality and achieve an equitable society in which everyone can earn a living with dignity by working 8 hours a day.
Even in times of pandemic, 50 richest people have increased their assets by 50 percent. By contrast, the workers’ real wages continue to decline. We cannot leave the widening income gaps as they are. We fight in solidarity with the movement for a minimum wage of more than 15 dollars per hour, which is developing internationally. We will strengthen the movement for wage increases from the bottom up all the more because of the pandemic.
Let us strengthen the effort to achieve a just and gender equal society in which the dignity of the individuals is respected.
On April 25, united candidates supported by the citizens’ movement and opposition parties won in three elections ? a House of Councilors by-elections in Nagano Prefecture, a House of Representatives by-election in Hokkaido Prefecture’s No.2 Constituency, and a House of Councilors re-election in Hiroshima Prefecture. These are victories the workers and citizens won by fighting for politics that stands for individual dignity. We will build on these successes to win in the upcoming Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and the House of Representatives election. Let us deepen and further develop joint struggle by the citizens’ movement and opposition parties with a view to achieving politics that protects the people’s lives and livelihoods based on the Constitution. Now is the time to raise the voice calling for going to vote to change politics and realize change of government.
Finally, we invoke our international solidarity for the workers and people fighting to defend fundamental human and labor rights, as well as democracy in Myanmar.
Let us further develop our unity and solidarity of the workers in the struggle to surmount the present difficulties amid the pandemic.
Long live the 92nd May Day! Long live the unity of the workers of all lands!