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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rengo-staged May Day rally draws 36,000


Staff writer

Expressing solidarity at a time of employment crisis, nearly 36,000 regular and temporary workers turned out Wednesday for the 80th annual May Day rally organized by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park.

News photo
Up in arms: Regular and temporary workers hold banners calling for wage hikes and job security during the 80th annual May Day rally organized by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) on Wednesday in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. KYODO PHOTO

"We're now at a crucial moment to figure out whether we can have hope in Japan's future," Tsuyoshi Takagi, head of Rengo, Japan's largest union group, declared to the gathering. "In order to change Japan, regime change is essential."

He noted the lack of a social safety net was only fueling anxiety and insecurity about employment.

While Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe pledged to do his best to improve the social security system, especially for workers, other politicians who attended the rally condemned the government's revisions of the worker dispatch law in 1999 and 2004 that dropped protective restrictions.

With the deregulation, temporary workers were allowed to work for manufacturers, which put many to work in risky and insecure jobs that quickly vanished when the economy soured.

"This is a May Day with anger," said Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party. "Even if employees work very hard, they are laid off. That's the reality in Japan now."

Many of the homeless who swarmed to a tent village in Tokyo's Hibiya Park over New Year's were the victims of the dispatch law deregulation, she charged.

"It's time to change politics," she said, echoing Takagi. "This is a chance to transform society into a place of coexistence and solidarity."

Also speaking out for political change was Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Democratic Party Japan. "(Prime Minister Taro) Aso's administration cannot overcome this employment crisis," he said.

Makoto Yuasa, head of the tent village and nonprofit Independent Life Support Center Moyai, argued for an end to fierce global business competition to prevent more layoffs. "We're already at the turning point of financial globalism," he said.

He also pointed the finger at labor unions, urging workers to question whether they were on the side of employees or managers when some members failed to oppose the layoff of temps to save a company.

The government so far estimates that about 192,061 nonregular workers lost or will lose their jobs between last October and June.



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