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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9  > Union at Sony propels its labor campaign to success
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2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9 [LABOR]

Union at Sony propels its labor campaign to success

January 4, 2017
The hourly wage of rehired Sony employees has increased from 1,000 yen to 1,300 yen, thanks to a workers' union. In addition, in Miyagi Prefecture, joint efforts made by the union and the Japanese Communist Party have succeeded in stopping an ex-Sony subsidiary from leaving the prefecture. The union has been receiving a lot of messages of gratitude and thank-you cards from Sony workers.

The wage boost applies to Sony workers who are reemployed with contracts renewed every year after their mandatory retirement at the age of 60. The initiative taken by the Sony workers' union Sendai branch affiliated with the Japanese Electrical Electronic & Information Union has spread to other Sony branches.

Sato Miwako, a 61-year-old union member, said she does exactly the same job at Sony's Sendai Technology Center as she used to. She inspects coating materials used for sophisticated magnetic tapes. She said, "Despite doing the same job assignment, I had to accept a substantial cut in wages. But, I couldn't accept it without a fight."

Representing the voice of the rehired workers' dissatisfaction, the Sony workers' union Sendai branch in collective bargaining demanded that Sony drastically increase their hourly wage. The union activists, during their negotiations with the company, utilized the results of a cost-of-living survey in which the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) had found that an hourly wage of at least 1,500 yen would be necessary for adequate livelihoods wherever a person lives. The Sendai branch promoted the pay raise campaign in cooperation with other local branches of the Sony workers' union.

Chairman of the SONY workers' union Sendai branch Matsuda Takaaki said, "I believe that the movement by many labor unions throughout Japan calling for a minimum hourly wage of 1,500 yen had a ripple effect on Sony, too. The nationwide 'equal pay for equal work' movement, regardless of employment status, has also given us great power in our collective bargaining talks."

* * *

Joint efforts by JCP and Sony union block ex-Sony subsidiary’s closure

The Sony workers’ union Sendai branch, in collaboration with the Japanese Communist Party, achieved another success by defeating an ex-Sony subsidiary’s attempt to close its business in Miyagi Prefecture.

Electric components manufacturer Dexerials Corporation was established in 2012 through a transformation of a Sony subsidiary, Sony Chemical Corporation, which was sold off to a holding company funded by the government-owned Development Bank of Japan Inc. Dexerials began manufacturing its products at Sony’s Sendai Technology Center located in Miyagi’s Tagajo City by using the same equipment.

The former Sony subsidiary in April 2016 announced a downsizing plan which included the relocation of its production base to Tochigi Prefecture, roughly 220 km away from Tagajo. The company also forced 130 workers who came from Sony Chemical to choose between two options: a transfer to distant offices and an early retirement.

Following the success of organizing efforts among the targeted workers, the Sony union Sendai branch urged Dexerials to cancel the restructuring plan. Furthermore, the union jointly with the JCP and local unions petitioned the prefectural government to request the former Sony subsidiary not to move out of Miyagi.

At a prefectural assembly meeting in September 2016, in response to a question made by JCP lawmaker Fukushima Kazue, Miyagi Governor Murai Yoshihiro said that the prefectural government already asked Dexerials for the continuation of its operation in the prefecture. The prefectural government also encouraged the company to promote collaboration and joint research with Tohoku University which is located in the prefecture.

The union in June 2017 in a collective bargaining session criticized the Dexerials management by saying that if the company closes its business in Miyagi, it will lose the trust of joint research partner Tohoku University, and demanded that the company launch a new business. The management in reply expressed its intention to entertain every possibility. One month later, the company announced its decision to retract the business relocation to Tochigi and put a stop to job-cuts.

Sony Sendai branch Chair Matsuda Takaaki stressed, “Only by placing a priority on workers’ livelihoods and by listening sincerely to workers’ voices can the company enjoy sustainable growth.”

Past related articles:
> Sony workers’ union stands up to block ex-Sony subsidiary’s downsizing scheme [ June 18, 2016]
> Sony union members win closure of ‘room’ to humiliate workers [October 13, 2014]
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