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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 February 26 - March 4  > Workers at major online printing company form union local
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2014 February 26 - March 4 TOP3 [LABOR]

Workers at major online printing company form union local

March 2, 2014
Young workers at a printing company in October last year organized a labor union, winning improved working conditions.

Kyoto-based Printpac Corporation is the leading company in the Internet printing industry in Japan. Its annual sales exceed 14 billion yen. What maintains the performance of this level, however, is the harsh working conditions imposed on its employees.

The company’s basic pay, together with a regional allowance, is 140,000 yen a month, which is a little more than the amount a worker earns in a month working eight hours, five days a week, at Kyoto’s minimum hourly wage.

The company runs its factories on a 24-hour basis under a two-shift work system. Workers are required to work at least 12 hours a day, more than four hours of overtime every day, exceeding 80 hours of overtime a month. The Labor Ministry has stated that working more than 80 hours of overtime could lead to work-related deaths. A number of Printpac employees at the plant suffer from health problems associated with working the night shift.

However, workers are not provided with overtime allowance. Instead, the company maintains that it pays a fixed 81,000 yen allowance which is equal to 80 hours of overtime pay.

Because of these circumstances, around half of new employees quit their jobs within a year, according to a union member.

Here is how the union was formed.

Fourth-year regular employee Nakayama Yuhei, while he was ill due to overwork, became acquainted with the National Federation of Printing and Publishing Industry Workers' Unions (Zen’in soren) through a leaflet his wife obtained. He went to a labor consultation held by a local branch of the federation which is affiliated with the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren).

Nakayama, 31, who had previously known very little about union movements, obtained information from the union and became aware of worker’s rights and the importance of labor unions.

“While feeling doubts about speaking out about the harshness of working conditions, I told myself that ‘working conditions are the same in every company.’ However, attending the labor consulting meeting taught me that workers united can change our workplace. We need a union to make our company a rewarding place to work in,” Nakayama said.

Nakayama started to make efforts to attract his colleagues by holding study meetings regarding working conditions. In October last year, at the inauguration meeting of the Printpac Kyoto Branch of Zen’in-soren, Nakayama became a union branch chair.

In January, after two sessions of collective bargaining, his union local succeeded in making an agreement with the management. The agreement includes making company rule books available to all workers and notifying the union about overtime. This is the first step toward better working conditions.

The presence of the union is changing the environment of his workplace, Nakayama said. He expressed his determination to build a bigger union so that workers can work without anxieties.
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