Young workers organize themselves to improve working conditions

In the western Japanese prefecture of Hiroshima, young workers who had been forced to do 80 to 130 hours of overtime work each month established a union and succeeded in forcing the company to promise to provide back pay for unpaid overtime work.

Mostly in their teens or 20's, they are confectionery sales workers who have been employed in the last two years. About 40 people are employed by the company, including part-timers.

Ikeda Yoshihiko, a 26-year-old union leader, used to work 14 hours a day since he was employed in April. He used to have only five hours to sleep.

On the company's delivery staff, Ikeda normally started working at 7 a.m. and rushed to finish delivering goods to stores by 3 p.m. After going back to the office, he had to sort and load the goods for the next day until 9 o'clock at night.

In May, Ikeda brought copies of his time cards and pay statements for 3 months to the labor standards inspection office. Supported by a labor counseling center of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of Trade Unions, he and his coworkers established their labor union.

At the collective bargaining, the company promised to make efforts to inform employees of their right to use paid holidays and other working rules.

Ikeda said, "Improvement of working conditions motivates us to work. We'll continue to make efforts to expand employees' understanding of our union and prevent the company from worsening our working conditions again." (end)

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