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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 August 15 - 21  > Kanagawa orchestra members seek withdrawal of their dismissals
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2012 August 15 - 21 [LABOR]

Kanagawa orchestra members seek withdrawal of their dismissals

August 17, 2012
A professional orchestra in Kanagawa Prefecture in April abruptly dismissed two contrabass players who are union executives. A movement demanding the withdrawal of their dismissals is expanding.

The Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra, the only full-sized orchestra in the prefecture, is trying to reduce its debts to meet requirements to become a public service corporation.

Since around 2000, local leaders of major businesses have taken seats in the foundation’s board of trustees leading to a deterioration in working conditions without considering the band members’ opinions. As of now, the chair of the board is the honorary advisor of Kanagawa Toyota Motor Sales Co., the vice chair of the board is the former vice president of Kanagawa Bank, and the managing director is the former president of Yamaha Music Yokohama.

Working conditions for the orchestra members have been getting worse for years: wages were reduced by 30% in the past 10 years; and no bonuses have been paid since winter of 2008 when only 50,000 yen was provided as bonus payment.

The Kanagawa Public Service General Workers’ Union of which the two workers served as representatives demanded improvement of working conditions, “Better working conditions of band members make for better performances.”

However, the orchestra in April discharged both of them: Sugimoto Tadashi (deputy chair of the union) and Fusegi Kenji (executive of the union).

The union claims that the two workers were unfairly discharged because they are union leaders.

The two musicians on July 4 filed a lawsuit with the Yokohama District Court demanding withdrawal of their dismissals. On the same day, a group was formed to support their court fight. Supporters are not only union members but also people from various backgrounds, including the chair of a residents’ association in Sugimoto’s neighborhood and a PTA member in the plaintiff’s child’s school.

“If we accept such unfair dismissals, the same will happen in orchestras all around the country. We want to be a ‘breakwater’ to prevent this from happening. We will do our best to protect the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra so that it can continue to proudly serve the local public and Kanagawa’s residents with joyful music,” said Fusegi.
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