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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 25 - May 8  > 150K workers celebrate 89th May Day in Japan
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2018 April 25 - May 8 TOP3 [LABOR]

150K workers celebrate 89th May Day in Japan

May 2, 2018

More than 150,000 workers and union activists on May 1 took part in May Day rallies and events at 308 locations in Japan, demanding an increase in minimum wages and better working conditions.

At Tokyo's Yoyogi Park, 28,000 workers celebrated the 89th May Day in fine weather. They paraded through Tokyo, carrying banners and placards reading, "Shorter hours!" and "Higher pay!" Float vehicles and pickup trucks with displays that parody the current news topics such as "Moritomo Gakuen" and "Kake Gakuen" scandals involving Prime Minister Abe Shinzo enlivened the annual May Day celebration.

Staff members and officials of the Japanese Communist Party head office wearing red JCP armbands formed a block of 230 marchers with large red JCP flags in the lead and paraded along the most trendy and fashionable streets of Omotesando and Aoyama. Many young people from the sidewalks took pictures with their smartphones, waved, and cheered the marchers on.

At the central May Day rally, President of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) Odagawa Yoshikazu delivered a speech on behalf of the rally organizers and JCP Chair Shii Kazuo also spoke in solidarity.

Shii called on the crowd, "Let us together eliminate social inequalities and create a society where everyone can live decently with an 8-hour day!"

Shii criticized the Abe government for having attempted to conceal inconvenient facts by fabricating official data regarding deaths from overwork (karoshi) and working hours. He said, "The ruling parties, despite strong opposition, started Diet deliberations on 'work-style reform' legislation. This government does not deserve to discuss work-style reform."

Shii added, "Our party will continue to work to realize a system which restricts overtime to a maximum of 15 hours a week and 45 hours a month which will help eradicate karoshi."

* * *

During the central May Day rally, Akahata reporters interviewed many participants.

Vice chair of the Tokyo Construction Workers’ Union (Tokyo Doken) Matsumoto Hisato said, “Construction workers earn 25% less than the average worker in other industries. Major general construction contractors are reluctant to share their profits with construction site workers. On top of that, amid Tokyo’s Olympic building boom, construction workers are forced to work under harsh working conditions.”

Temporary lecturers at Nihon University (Nichidai), Japan’s largest private university, made their first appearance at a May Day rally after they formed their union. Imai Taku, who serves as vice chair of the Nichidai Union affiliated with the Union of University Part-Time Lecturers in Tokyo Area, expressed his determination to work hard to oppose the university’s plan to impose a massive dismissal of non-regular workers.

Holding a banner that criticizes big businesses’ outrageous job cuts, members of the Denki-Joho Union which organizes individuals in the electronics and information industries took part in the May Day rally. Union chair Maita Tokuji was angry with NEC for announcing a plan to cut 3,000 jobs this year despite increased profits. Maita added, “Hitachi, whose chair will be appointed as the next leader of the Japan Business Federation, routinely carries out downsizing-related layoffs even though it enjoys the biggest-ever profits.”

Sugino Kensaku, secretary general of the Japan Metal, Manufacturing, Information and Telecommunication Workers' Union (JMITU) branch at IBM Japan, referred to the union’s victory in struggles against the company’s unfair dismissal of 11 union members. Sugino said, “Our struggles have contributed to increasing the number of union members and creating a positive atmosphere in workplaces.”

A 54-year-old female member of the co-op workers’ union wore a T-shirt that read, “Create a nationwide, across-the-board minimum wage system!” She said, “Non-regular workers’ annual income is less than two million yen. Large corporations and the government should fulfill their responsibility to eliminate the working poor.”

“I hope that Japan will become a nation where regardless of rich or poor, everyone can receive medical services without financial anxieties,” said a male physical therapist in his 20s who is also a member of the Japan Federation of Medical Workers' Unions (Iroren). An after-school daycare center worker in her 50s criticized the government for preferring to pack children into understaffed facilities under the name of solving facility shortages. “What the government should do is to increase the number of after-school care centers as well as the number of staff working at those facilities,” she added.

An accountant working for a large company said, “I frequently work more than 10 hours a day. The Abe government ‘work-style reform' measures will only benefit big businesses.”
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