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

Author: Kyoto Shimbun, Published on: 19 February 2020

[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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