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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 March 4 - 10  > Director of Hansen’s Disease Museum commits harassment of staff members
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2020 March 4 - 10 [LABOR]

Director of Hansen’s Disease Museum commits harassment of staff members

March 10, 2020

It has come to light that the director of the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Tokyo committed acts of human rights violations against staff members, including power harassment.

The revelation was made at a press conference held on March 9 in the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare building by a museum workers’ union. The union was formed as a branch of the Kokko Ippan union which organizes individual public service workers.

The museum is tasked to hand down to future generations the historical instances of human rights violations in which leprosy patients were forced to live in isolation under the government’s quarantine policy. The museum’s aim also includes working to eliminate discrimination and prejudice against patients and their families. The Nippon Foundation has been entrusted with the museum’s operation since 2016 by the Welfare Ministry.

At the press conference, Inaba Takamichi, who heads the Kokko Ippan branch affiliated with the Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokkororen), said, “Given that the museum is themed on the importance of people’s human rights, human right violations there are particularly appalling.”

According to Inaba, museum director Narita Minoru has been hostile to Inaba. Inaba said that in April 2018, the director carried out a structural reform of the museum and excluded Inaba and two other workers from the planning of special exhibitions although they have extensive experience in this regard. In addition, Inaba said that the director often told other workers to not provide documents and materials to Inaba.

A female union member said that she experienced sexual harassment by the director.

In September 2019, Inaba and some workers formed their union in order to eliminate human right violations by the director and improve the museum’s operation and working conditions. They have since engaged in collective bargaining, but the museum management keeps taking an insincere attitude and the director’s harassment still continues unabated.

Kokko Ippan and the museum branch on March 9 made representations to the Welfare Ministry. As the operator of the museum will be changed from the Nippon Foundation to one of its related organizations in April, the unions urged the ministry to make sure that the current workers will not be dismissed.

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