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Costs of Japanese workers on U.S. bases to be studied

Date Posted: 2009-11-25

The Democratic Party of Japan may be heading for another collision course with both conservatives and the U.S. government as it decides to study the costs of Japan paying for local national workers on American military bases.

The governmentís Administrative Revitalization Unit says it is eying the salaries of Japanese workers on U.S. bases as prime targets for cuts. It says •116.4 billion of the Defense Ministryís host-nation support budget of •191.9 billion is open to review for possible cutbacks.

Fiscal í08 figures show 25,499 Japanese workers on U.S. bases, working at everything from headquarters elements to base clubs, golf courses and recreation outlets. The host-nation support agreement mandates that the Japanese government pay the salaries of 23,055 of the workers, with the remainder funded by the American military. The wage levels for these employees is set by the government each year, with figures roughly matching those of national government employees, even though those working for the American military are treated as private employees instead of government workers.

The Democratic Party of Japan has been complaining for years that salaries for Japanese workers on American bases is too high, compared with workers in private industry. As the DPJ gained strength in the summer elections, it promised change. The Administrative Revitalization Unit is acting on the DPJís promises, and will review all employment contracts between U.S. base workers and the Japanese government. The DPJ cannot force the changes until March 2011, when the current bilateral agreement concludes, but planning is now under way to slash the workersí salaries to match those of private Japanese companies.

One government official predicts the cuts in base worker salaries could total more than •1 billion. One area the DPJ has been promising to slash is the salaries for recreational employees working at base Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities. Government officials are saying they believe the U.S. will have understanding for its scrutiny and proposed salary cuts.

The All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union and its 16,000+ members is expected to vigorously oppose the governmentís salary reduction plane. Zenchuro, the unionís nickname, is a part of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, the nationís second largest labor organization. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation is expected to throw its support behind the Zenchuro, despite being a major power base for the DPJ. The DPJ found its candidates losing support from the Japanese unions after it first announced plans to cut support for the American bases.

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