Oki Electric force skilled workers to pack vegetables

Veteran workers of Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. are forced to move to subsidiary outsourcing company, with their wages and working conditions considerably lowered, or pack leeks at a vegetable market.

The major communication equipment maker is planning to cut 2,200 jobs, amounting to ten percent of its employees. This follows a restructuring program in 2000 in which it dismissed 4,000 workers.

The workers who refuse to leave the company are put into a team called the "Technical Support Team" (TST), and sent on loan to electric and automobile factories, food companies, and fruit and vegetable markets.

At Oki's Honjo factory in Honjo City, Saitama Prefecture, the TST was established in 1998. Five or six workers have been put in a small room, equipped only with personal computers and soldering irons.

Workers who don't want to go to the TST have accepted to work outside Oki on lease contracts, but many of them have quit because the jobs assignedwere too demanding.

In February 2002, Oki announced that it will establish a partner company and move all 120 workers working at Oki's assembly line to the new company. The head office of the new company will be located in Oki's factory site. Oki will place an order with the partner company in 2002, but has no plans for the next year. The workers of the partner company will have to work under tougher conditions with lower salaries.

Several workers have recently written a letter to the Oki Electric Industry Trade Union, which is affiliated with the Japanese Electrical Electronic and Information Union (Denki Rengo), complaining about wage cuts and a reduction in the retirement allowance.

The letter requested the union to urge the company to stop forcing workers to quit or move to subsidiaries, respect workers' wishes, and secure jobs. (end)