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Zenchuro asks governor’s help in blocking base worker pay cuts

Date Posted: 2009-12-11

The All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union is appealing to Okinawa’s governor to help stop the central government from slashing salaries of base workers by 30% in the coming year’s budget.

The Government Revitalization Unit studied some 447 different government projects earmarked for the coming fiscal year, among them salaries of 23,000 workers on U.S. military bases in Okinawa and mainland Japan. The base workers are paid through a host nation support program of the Ministry of Defense, and the Government Revitalization Unit has recommended cutting those salaries roughly 30%, claiming the workers are overpaid compared with workers doing similar work in the local communities.

The All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, also known as the Zenchuro, has taken its case to Governor Hirokazu Nakaima’s office in Naha City. The Zenchuro’s leader, Eizo Yonaha, and members of the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly explained Okinawa’s average wages are only 60-70% of those paid on the mainland to begin with, and cutting base workers’ salaries would further drag down the average wage levels here.

“This is nothing but an insult to the Okinawan people,” Yonaha says, asking why “Okinawans should work for lower wages than mainlanders.” Nakaima assured the Zenchuro leader he’ll join them in the fight to block the pay cuts, which Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s budget team says it would support. Toshimi Kitazawa, the Minister of Defense, is drifting away from his boss by also saying he’ll support workers in the arguments with the Ministry of Finance. Kitazawa is asking for $1.37 billion to meet the payroll bill for Japanese base workers.

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