Japanese Toyota Workers Call for
"A new, horizontal type of labor union"
From: Protest-Toyota email@example.com
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006
A new, horizontal type of labor union emerged !
The Message of All Toyota Labor Union Presidents
Last January 22nd, after one year of deliberate preparation, another
labor union was organized at TOYOTA jointly by the workers of Toyota
Motor Corporation as well as Toyota affiliate companies, namely DENSO,
AISIN, and JTEKT. The union is called All Toyota Labor Union (ATU). It
was indeed ironic for Toyota Labor Union to observe the 60th anniversary
of its establishment of on exactly the same day as
this new union saw the light of day.
Since we started our first day at work, we have long been bounded by the
union-shop contracts --- mandate that all workers at a given employer
must join the union --- a structure of one corporation with one labor
union has been prevailing and this system has been unchallenged for a
very long time. Meanwhile, we the employees
even had no right at all to choose which union to join.
ATU is completely different from the existing unions that only accept
full-timers from the viewpoint of whether or not opening the door to all
the employees regardless of one's employment status.
1. ATU is a single, independent, horizontal organization open to anyone
who wishes to be a member on an individual basis.
2. ATU is open to ALL the workers at Toyota affiliate companies
regardless of one's status as full-timer or part-timer.
3. ATU is open to managerial staff and foreigners as well.
The raison d'etre as labor unions is called into question.
The automobil industry in Japan has grown into a key industry that has a
very broad base and extended its production sites rapidly toward
overseas. All the Toyota group companies are putting pressures on
workers to increase their global competitiveness while spreading out the
cost cutting schemes at a breakneck pace. As a result, majority of the
workers suffer from low wages and long working hours while being forced
to work under extremely harsh working conditions where health hazards or
mental problems are not uncommon and even "overwork
death" is widely observed.
We believe it is the social responsibility of the Toyota group and the
labor union to create a workplace where the workers can work in safety
and peace without having any worres. As we now increasingly hear fearful
cries raised by the workers, we cannot afford to waste time any longer
to address the fundamental reason of the
existence of the labor union.
Does the labor union exist at Toyota?
The reason why we ask this question is because of an event observed
during the annual spring wage round in 2002. The company flatly rejected
to increase the base pay though it had gained as much as 1 trillion yen
of absolute profits for the previous year. Nevertheless, the union
didn't challenge to the company to increase
the base pay for more than three years. This incident roused the
workers' anger. We were filled with resentment as we didn't find any
good reason why and for whom the union is existing for while enjoying a
cozy relationship that the union had with the employers. In the past,
the advocacy of unified labor and management relation was as follows:
"if the company improves its performance (implying that workers
should do their best), the workers' living will also improve". Finally,
this proved to be a false argument.
A viewpoint of building a nation required from the labor movement now
We strive to improve social status of all the workers at Toyota
affiliate companies and their family members while protecting their
lives, rights, and well-being through the enforcement of the workers'
rights: the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively and the
right to act collectively, which are all stipulated in the Constitution
of Japan and the Labor Union Law.
Government and business community have together been pushing forward the
neo-liberal economic scheme by placing first priority on profit seeking
under the pretext of deregulation measures. Seeking only for profits and
efficiency in operating business has generated and revealed rampant
wrongdoings of corporations. Besides, the market-oriented philosophy
encouraged by both the government and the business community has fueled
a cut-throat competition among people while widening a social gap and
producing poverty in this country, which as a result worsened a
contradiction between developed nations' economy and
aggravated peoples' living.
What we particularly want to stress is a terrible destruction of the
employment rules. At present, one out of three people are hired as
part-timer or nonregular employees, while one of of two young people are
working under a very unstable employment conditions.
This applies to Toyota as well. As of November 2005, appoximately 13,000
people, which accounts for 40% of the total workforce of Toyota, are
employed as temporarily or with a fixed term, though their work is no
different from the work done by regular employees. Only with the reason
that their status is not full-time, their wage is discounted down to
half of full-timers' while they are placed under constant fears that
they can be discharged anytime from the companies.
Are we allowed to continue ignoring such terrible situations as a labor
union? The youths need a stable work and workplace as well as
trouble-free living conditions. It is a mission of the union to provide
a safe social environment where young generations can join hands in
marriage and raise kids without any fear or worry. Creating such
environment may cope with emerging social issues such as declining
number of births and aging of the society. The labor movement today is
truly required to have a viewpoint of building a nation.