Base workers halt Yokosuka strike plans after agreement is reached
May 14, 2006
TOKYO — Officials of a labor union representing Japanese workers at U.S. bases said they have temporarily called off a planned strike at Yokosuka Naval Base.
All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, or Zenchuro, previously said they would conduct an eight-hour strike at Yokosuka involving about 4,000 Japanese workers on Thursday if their demand regarding a national change in retirement age was not met, union general secretary Kazuo Yamakawa said.
The union was demanding the Defense Facilities Administration Agency allow Japanese workers who wish to work after the current retirement age of 60 to do so. Their demand came in response to Japan’s revision on Stabilization of Employment of the Aged law that took effect April 1. The law obligates all employers to continue employing workers who wish to work after 60.
The law states employers must either raise the mandatory retirement age, introduce a continued-employment system that employers and unions agree to, or abolish their company mandatory retirement system.
The union and DFAA agreed to apply a continued-employment system and reached a labor-management agreement. It sets standards the workers must meet, such as being in good health, being motivated and having the ability to work.
Yamakawa said the strike was put on hold to ensure a labor agreement between the Japanese and U.S. governments is revised to the union’s satisfaction.
“We believe that [DFAA] will take care of it,” he said.
“We are glad that we were able to apply the law to the workers … and to avert the strike,” said DFAA labor management division official Ikuo Fukatsu.
Commander, Naval Forces Japan officials at Yokosuka on Friday deferred questions to U.S. Forces Japan.
Marine Maj. James Bell, a USFJ spokesman at Yokota Air Base, said the U.S. military, though linked to the DFAA, is “a step removed from the negotiations.” But he called the breakthrough a positive development.
“We’re pleased when it appears that the potential disputes that exist can be resolved at the lowest possible level between the government of Japan and unions that represent the Master Labor Contract employees,” he said.
Navy officials at Yokosuka earlier had said the effect of a strike would depend on factors such as size and timing. But they did not expect it would curtail essential operations, although some services would be cut back to ensure operations continue.
Stars and Stripes reporter Vince Little contributed to this report