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Kadena AAFES manager reprimanded after incident with pregnant employee

Date Posted: 2004-07-01

An American store manager has been reprimanded after mistreating a pregnant Japanese worker at Kadena Air Base.

The incident was one of two at the air base’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service shopping center BX. One occurred May 18 and the second two days later. The Kadena BX employs about 125 local staff.

The first case involved a 30-year-old woman in her fifth month of pregnancy. Feeling bad, she asked her manager of she could go home. The manager told her to “be patient. We don’t have any staff to take your place.” The woman complied, saying “all right, I’ll try.” A bit later she collapsed and fell down unconscious.

An ambulance transported her to a hospital. Officials say she was treated for cardio-respiratory arrest.

Several days later, another incident occurred at the same store, when another employee passed out and fell. She remains half paralyzed after suffering a brain hemorrhage, and is confined to a wheel chair in the hospital.

The military base workers association, the All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, blames the manager, saying the new manager was very strict and sales driven, telling employees they must keep sales up and the target should always be reached.

The labor union, which has 2,600 employees in Okinawa, says the manager forced several employees, including the pregnant woman, to work overtime until after midnight, and then made them return to work only a few hours later at 6a.m. The union representative charges that “after someone retires, the military should hire new people, but they didn’t do it. The manager should give workers days off and break times, etc.”

The union’s Zuckeran Branch says “the military gives Japanese employees too much work and no free time.” Chairman Tokusuki Kaneshi wants change in the system.

The union claims the BX doesn’t hire new workers to replace others who retire, and that employees are shifted from low producing sections to others, causing increased work for remaining staff. Because of the shortages, Kaneshi says, employees have no opportunities for time off or vacation.

The Okinawa Area Exchange, which oversees the BX at Kadena Air Base, says its’ Human Resource Divisionstrongly reprimanded the manager. It has met with Japanese workers to discuss the incidents, too. “We would like to apologize,” an official said, “and we are always ready to reform the law of workers to have comfortable offices.”

An attorney who knows the plight of on-base workers says “to work on base, an individual must be hired by the Japanese Self Defense Office, but the managers are American, and they don’t know Japanese workers law. The American managers are giving a hard time to Japanese workers.”

Director General Okazaki of the Naha Defense Facilities Administrative Bureau promises “we’ll investigate and, if necessary, ask for changes from the Americans.”

Labor union officials say nearly 100,000 people are waiting to get jobs on base. “People want the on-base jobs, and they do not want out of the work place. They want to keep their jobs forever,” Kaneshi says, adding “It’s a dream to get a job on base for young Japanese people. That’s the fact.”

The workers union has asked OWEX to increase the staffing at AAFES facilities to prevent future incidents.

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