'We are not disposable workers!'

Employees of a leading electric appliances manufacturer's subcontractor company in Utsunomiya City of Tochigi Prefecture who received a sudden dismissal notice formed a labor union and pushed the company into withdrawing the notice.

Tsurumi Shin'ichiro, 35, and other 60 workers were abruptly notified in late February that due to the termination of the contract with their parent company, their section would be closed and all of them fired.

Taking the advice of the Tochigi Confederation of Trade Unions, a prefectural organization of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), Tsurumi called a meeting to discuss what to do.

To the 29 colleagues who took part in the meeting, he said, "The company is making light of us. They are throwing us away as if we are disposable goods. If I don't complain and just leave the company, how can I explain this to my sons in the future? I want to do something so that I will be able to tell them that their father fought against the company."

Twenty-three of them joined the Tochigi Labor Union and formed the union's branch.

The company management was so shocked that the company president in the collective bargaining was at a loss for words when asked by the labor union chair if the dismissal meets the four requirements of dismissal the Supreme Court has set as a legal precedent.

In mid-March, the company apologized for the one-sided dismissal notice, withdrew the notice, stated that it will make efforts to continue the employment of the 60 workers, and called on them to voluntarily leave the company.

All of the union members agreed to voluntarily quit and received severance pay and settlement money. "All of us are satisfied with the achievements of our struggle," said Tsurumi.

He said, "It's not easy to find a new job. But I now have a pride as a worker. That was a valuable experience. There are many workers who have no union, no rights, and do not know of the power of unity. I'll be happy if my experience can help them have courage to organize."

The Tochigi Labor Union was established by the Tochigi Confederation of Trade Unions last January in order to organize workers without unions and defend their rights. Any worker in the prefecture can join it and it now has a membership of more than 100. (end)