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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 August 22 - 28  > Nichia breaks promise with union to end illegal labor practice
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2007 August 22 - 28 [LABOR]

Nichia breaks promise with union to end illegal labor practice

August 17, 2007
It has been eight months since Tokushima Prefecture-based Nichia Corporation, the blue light-emitting diode (LED) inventor, promised that it would end its illegal use of about 1,600 outsourced workers and offer them direct employment opportunities.

However, instead of fulfilling the promise, the company has actually fired workers who filed complaints of its illegal labor practice.

Nichia’s so-called “disguised contract work” practice came to light in October 2006 when a member of the All-Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers’ Union (JMIU) filed complaint with the Tokushima Labor Bureau, requesting the bureau to instruct the company to stop the illegal labor practice.

The company used temporary workers by disguising them as subcontractors’ employees because the Worker Dispatch Law requires employers to offer direct employment positions to temporary workers who work for them for longer than a certain period of time.

Those workers received only about 180,000 yen a month (less than 2.4 million yen a year). Some of them were working for Nichia for more than three years by renewing short-term labor contracts every two months.

Through the prefectural government’s mediation, the company reached an agreement with the JMIU in which it promised to directly hire workers working at the company for more than three years and later offer them full-time positions. The union then withdrew its complaint.

Selecting workers through exams

Nichia has conducted examinations twice so far, and a total of about 110 workers took them. However, the company rehired only less than half of them and no JMIU members were hired. At the same time, the company hired 255 new workers in April.

JMIU Nichia Branch Chair Shimamoto Makoto, 34, had never imagined being rejected after taking the examination. He passed all in-company tests on machine operations and worked at Nichia for two and a half years while other workers were fired after failing the tests. “The examination is a farce. This was conducted to get rid of workers who filed complaint against Nichia,” said Shimamoto.

Moriguchi Hideaki, secretary general of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)-affiliated Tokushima Federation of Trade Unions, said, “The company is infringing on the prefectural government-mediated agreement. Its social responsibility is called into question.”

Close workshop

Last December, the company closed the production lines where union members were working. Their unemployment benefits expired in July.

Shimamoto and his six-year-old child now depend on his wife who receives 90,000 yen a month by working as part-timer. He said, “The company promised to secure stable positions for us until directly hiring us when we finish three years on the job. If such an outrageous action is allowed, nobody will be able to file complaints against the company’s disguised contract work practice.”

Shimamoto and other union members in July filed a complaint again at the Tokushima Labor Bureau. They also urged the prefectural government to fulfill its responsibility to have Nichia honor the agreement.

Japanese Communist Party House of Councilors member Nihi Soei and the JCP Tokushima Prefectural Assembly members’ group on August 8 made representations to the Labor Ministry demanding that it immediately investigate and work to secure stable working positions for those workers that filed the complaint.

The JMIU issued a statement and called for wider support in its struggle to make the company comply with the agreement. - Akahata, August 17, 2007
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