Japan: Concerns raised over potential labour crackdown with arrests of 81 union members in Kansai region

Since 2018, police in the Kansai region of Japan have arrested 81 members of the Kansai District Ready-Mixed Concrete Branch of the All Japan Construction and Transport Workers Solidarity Union. The arrests were made on charges of obstruction of business by force and extortion. This incident has raised concern among labour unions and legal experts, who point to a growing trend towards restricting workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in Japan. 

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Author: 京都新聞

『関西生コン労組、違法捜査と国など提訴 執行委員長ら恐喝容疑巡り「長期勾留は恣意的」』2020年3月17日

全日本建設運輸連帯労働組合関西地区生コン支部(関生支部)の執行委員長らが恐喝容疑などで京都府警や滋賀県警などに逮捕、起訴されている事件で、捜査や取り調べ、裁判所の勾留認可などに違法行為があったとして、上部団体の連帯労組や関生支部と組合員らが17日、国と京都府や滋賀県、和歌山県を相手に国家賠償請求訴訟を東京地裁に起こした。

訴状では、滋賀県警の捜査員が取り調べ中、労働組合法で禁じられている労組からの脱退を強要する発言をくり返したり、証拠隠滅の恐れがないのに長期勾留を続けているのは恣意(しい)的で、公権力の行使にあたり違法行為がくり返された、としている。

関生支部を巡っては、2018年8月、生コン納入を巡る恐喝未遂容疑で役員が滋賀県警に逮捕されて以来、威力業務妨害や恐喝未遂などの容疑で京都、大阪両府警、滋賀、和歌山両県警に延べ89人が逮捕されている…

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Article
30 March 2020

Japan: Osaka Labour Commission rules in favour of union on three Kansai Nama Kon suppression cases

Author: Labornet (Japan)

[Excerpt translation from Japanese to English provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

"News about the suppression of the Kansai Nama Kon Labour Union", 2 March 2020

...On February 26 [2020], the Osaka City Labour Commission determined that six day workers of the Fujiwara Ready-Made Concrete Transport company had experienced employment discrimination. The commission also ruled that the employer had violated labour laws by refusing to participate in collective bargaining, which was requested by union members after July 2018. Decisions are outlined below: 

1. The employer must ensure that the four union members who are day workers have an insurance book and can be employed at the same frequency as members of other labour unions.

2. The employer must compensate the four union members for 60 percent of the income that they would have earned between April 2018 and the time when they were rehired by the company (Note 1).

3. The employer should have responded to collective bargaining requests submitted by union members on 4 July 2018 (Note 2).

4. Other

Note 1: The commission also ordered the employer to compensate two members who had left the union. The compensation amount was set at 60 percent of the income that these employees would have earned until they left the union.

Note 2: The union protested that the employer had decreased the number of working days for its members and asked for improvements. However, the employer did not respond to calls for negotiation, saying that they were not obligated to negotiate on the issue of day workers.

Fujiwara Ready-Made Concrete Transport denied employment and refused to participate in collective bargaining with union members at the same time that the police were suppressing the activities of the Kansai Ready-Mixed Concrete Union branch, which is part of the Osaka Kouiki Ready-mixed Concrete Cooperative Association. In December 2017, the Kansai Ready-Mixed Concrete Union branch and the Osaka branch of the All Port and Harbour Union launched a general strike asking employers to fulfill their promise of increasing members’ pay. However, the Osaka Kouiki Ready-Mixed Concrete Cooperative Agency did not respond, instead rolling out an all-out combative approach that involved criticizing the strikes as obstruction of business and allegations against Kansai union branch as a criminal organization.  On 23 January 2018, the agency prohibited any contact, negotiations, or face-to-face discussions with the Kansai union branch. It also ordered that any member company that goes against these rules would face severe punishment. Furthermore, in February 2018, the group announced that it would prohibit any business with transport companies with ties to the Kansai union. While Fujiwara Ready-Mixed Concrete Transport is the only company that has been held legally liable in this specific case, it can also be inferred from the Labour Commission’s decision that the Osaka Kouiki Ready-Mixed Concrete Cooperative Agency also bears responsibility.

  • This ruling is the third legal victory, preceded by two other cases—the Tokushima incident and Kamo Concrete incident. The Kansai Ready-Mixed Concrete incident, which involved police suppression of labour union activity, has resulted in a number of cases that have been submitted to the Osaka City Labour Commission. So far, the commission has ruled in favor of the union in the Tokushima incident, which occurred in October 2019, and the Kamo Concrete incident, which occurred in December 2019. This marks the third victory for the union following these decisions...

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Article
26 February 2020

Japan: National Trade Union Council - Osaka protests arrests of Kansai Nama-Kon union members

Author: National Trade Union Council - Osaka, General Union

"We Protest the Outrageous Union Busting of the Zenniken Kansai Nama-Kon Branch", 11 Nov 2018

Recently, there continue to be outrageous crackdowns, in defiance of common sense, against the All-Japan Construction and Transport Solidarity Union, Kinki Regional Headquarters, Kansai Nama-Kon Branch. From August through October, a shocking 23 Union members have been arrested, with many of them even now still detained...

The Shiga and Osaka prefectural police forces are at the center of this suppression, with those in Kyoto, Nara and Wakayama prefectures also working together, competing to crack down repeatedly as if in a contest. Also, an unprecedented aspect of this now is that, following directions from the National Police Agency, the Organized Crime Division has come to the forefront. In other words, the suppression this time is unmistakably a move by the power of the State to treat labor unions as being “antisocial forces” just like boryokudan (organized crime groups) and smash them with all its might...

...[U]nion members have now been arrested on charges of “(attempted) extortion” and “threats” for making demands of the employer in collective bargaining; and on charges of “forcible obstruction of business” for going on strike...If unions cannot press an employer in collective bargaining and cannot exercise their right to act collectively against an employer who ignores the workers’ demands, this is as good as declaring that unions must stop being unions. This situation is an urgent one that will have a serious effect on the future of the labor movement.

What makes the abnormality of this suppression even more apparent is the ugly collusion between the employers’ association executives and racist elements...

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Article
19 February 2020

Japan: Labour law scholars release statement protesting arrest of Kansai Nama Kon union members

Author: Kyoto Shimbun

[Excerpt translation from Japanese to English provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.]

“Labour law scholars protest the arrest of 81 members of Kansai Nama Kon union, saying activities are legal”, 10 Dec 2019

 On December 9, 2019, 78 scholars specializing in labour law released a statement protesting that the police were punishing Kansai Nama Kon branch of the All-Japan Construction and Transport Solidarity Union for legitimate activities protected under the constitution and the Trade Union Law.” The announcement comes after the Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture police made a series of arrests of trade union officers and members for obstruction of business as well as attempted extortion and coercion.

The statement was written by 24 scholars, including Ritsumeikan University’s Professor Emeritus Mikio Yoshida and Chuo University’s Professor Emeritus Katsutoshi Kezuka. It was also co-signed by 54 academics from universities and research institutions across Japan.

In their statement, scholars pointed out that members of the Kansai Nama Kon were prosecuted for activities that are considered normal for trade unions, such as asking for improvements in labour conditions and compliance with the law. The scholars also explain that the police and prosecutors interpreted minor offenses—such as union demands for companies to hire day labourers as regular employees—as obstruction of business. The scholars called on the presiding judge on these cases to reach a fair and just decision based on the legality of Kansai Nama Kon’s activities under the Trade Union Law. 

At a press conference, Mr. Yoshida and Mr. Tezuka said: “The union asked employers to provide a proof of employment because members needed documentation to send their children to preschool. The police and prosecutors argued that this action constitutes attempted coercion, punishing something that is considered a normal union activity. As scholars of labour law, we can’t overlook such an unusual incident that ignores basic labour rights.”

Kansai Nama Kon’s members are not restricted to employees in one industry and encompass various sectors. In Shiga Prefecture, the organization demanded that a construction company building warehouses hire ready-mixed concrete suppliers with official union ties. In July 2018, the police arrested 77 members, including the branch chairman, on the grounds of attempted coercion. Since then, a total of 81 members have been arrested, and 69 have been prosecuted.

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