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Union rejects new AAFES plan for re-hiring workers

Date Posted: 2012-05-25

The union representing Japanese workers at the Army Air Force Exchange Service has rejected a proposed system for re-hiring workers after they reach retirement age.

The All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union Okinawa Area Head Office has already organized a sit-in in front of Camp Butler’s Headquarters Main Gate to demand retraction of the AAFES part-time job system, and a revision to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. AAFES is offering to re-hire retirees who wish to continue working as part-timers, but wants to limit their work hours to 30 per week.

That’s not good enough, says the union, which rallied more than 150 people for the protest, shouting that “our salaries will be reduced by half, and it will result in destroying our lives.” Base workers currently retire at age 60, although public pension payments do not kick in until age 65. The workers are typically expected to continue working past retirement age as part-time employees in virtually all departments.

Agreements between the U.S. and Japan have stipulated that such workers are guaranteed about 70% of their full-time employment pay. AAFES, however, announced in February it’s switching to a re-employment plan for post-retirement employment that would limit employees to 30 hours per week. Japan’s Ministry of Defense, which is the actual paying employer for Japanese workers, has demanded AAFES and the U.S. renegotiate the plan, but a Ministry spokesman says AAFES has not responded. Nor has there been any announcement of delays in the implementing the new system.

The Union head office says 28 people will be affected at the outset. The current average salary for a 20-year worker is ¥250,000 per month, but the union says the new system will reduce that figure by one-half. Eizo Yonamine, chairman of the All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union Okinawa Area Head Office, says “AAFES’s response in refusing negotiations, and not showing any reasons, is clearly unfair labor practice, and is clearly wrong by international law.”

Yonamine has criticized the move, noting “they say it is the country’s relationship footing, but this present condition that bypasses Japanese law and power is anything unusual.” The union’s head office has presented demands to an Okinawa representative to the Diet, and has submitted signatures of more than 210,000 people to the Ministry of Defense in protest.

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