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Union calls Friday strike after government refuses to budge

Date Posted: 2007-11-29

The Zenchuro, the General Labor Union of Japanese Garrison Workers, will stage a 24-hour strike Friday in response to the Defense Ministry’s failure to drop plans for slashing salaries 5~10%.
A fourth meeting between Kazuo Yamagawa, leader of the labor union, and the Defense Ministry failed to produce a breakthrough, setting the stage for a second strike. The government had promised the labor union “We would do their best” to consider the Zenchuro’s demand the pay cuts be shelved. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday, but Yamagawa says “I know both sides, and the gap is not yet narrowed, but I feel this time the Ministry of Self Defense is seeking a compromise. With the workers.”
Still, Yamagawa says the union has no choice but to announce the strike. “Now it’s time to show our strong will,” he says. “We must fight until we get back our full salaries.” If the government backs down and meets union demands, Yamagawa says the strike will be cancelled.
Friday’s strike will last 24 hours, the union says, and will include demonstrators posted at gates to American military installations. The Zenchuro conducted a four-hour strike November 21st, the first nationwide strike in 16 years. The union represents two-thirds of the 26,000 Japanese workers on U.S. bases.
It is unclear how much the strike will affect operations of on-base retail and food outlets. An AAFES official said that all gasoline stands, BX, PX, shoppettes and food outlets will stay open as much as possible with AAFES’s American staff.
According to reports on AFN, Food Courts on Foster and Kadena are expected to close sometime in the afternoon. Child development centers on Kadena are scheduled to close at 11 a.m. Commissary operation hours may also be affected. DoD schools will be open as usual.
The Defense Ministry plans to cut wages 5~10% in an effort to save ¥10 billion each year. The government says the special nature of jobs with the U.S. military has changed, a point the union challenges. “Absolutely nothing has changed,” a union official says. The Zenchuro contends worker salaries are actually lower than that of other Japanese civil servants, pointing out that its workers are prohibited for receiving compensation for work related accidents without permission from the American military.
The union notes that the Japanese Labor Standards Law and other domestic labor laws do not apply to those working for the American military, and rejects the ministry plan to abolish special payments designed to offset tenuous job conditions that may get worse as the Japan-U.S. military realignment agreement goes into effect.

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