Achieve Policy Demands: 2.6 Central Pep Rally
13 February 2004
On February 6, RENGO held its "Achieve Policy Demands/2.6 Central Pep Rally" at the Tokyo Kosei Nenkin Kaikan Hall. 2,500 attendees gathered to adopt the rallyˇÕs appeal and express their feelings of rage toward pension reform. Two affiliated organizations in attendance at the rally formally declared their resolution. In his opening remarks, RENGO President Sasamori said that "the pension reform draft which the government and ruling coalition parties are planning will only postpone our problems to the future and they are trying to push off burden-hikes and benefit-cuts and even an invasive tax hike onto our citizens." He called on the audience saying, "This revision draft must be scrapped." Both Secretary Generals from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party each presented speeches of solidarity on the issue of pension reform.
Photo: Rally participants angrily protest. (February 6, Tokyo Kosei Nenkin Kaikan Hall)
President Sasamori explained the overall rationale for the rally saying that, “In previous years, this was a time when the Central Kick Off Pep Rally was held in order to articulate our demands for the Spring Struggle. However, when looking back at the politics and situation in Japan over the last few years, we realized that in order to break through the dismal conditions that engulf our entire nation, it is crucial for trade unions to achieve policies for its citizens and therefore we decided to hold a Central Rally for realizing our policies.”
He then continued his speech by raising various issues including the six S’s and six K’s. The six S’s refer to; secure livelihood (or S
eikatsu in Japanese), social security (S
hakai-hosho), unemployment rate (S
hitsugyo-ritsu), Spring Struggle (S
hunki seikatsu toso), unionization rates (S
oshiki-ritsu) and politics (S
eiji). Likewise, the Six K’s refer to: employment (or K
oyo in Japanese), public servant system reform (K
omuin), education (K
yoiku), the environment (K
ankyo), Japan’s National Constitution (K
enpo), and the United Nations (K
Sasamori then went on to make special mention of the fact that in the Spring Struggle, “Management refers the improvement of corporate performance. But it is precisely through the power of labor that will make management realize just how great a sacrifice and contribution was made by workers behind the scenes to effect this corporate revival.” Sasamori lauded upcoming negotiations by saying “we want each business negotiation to reach their own objectives while recognizing the seriousness of raising demands and the importance of the issues that must be achieved.”
Touching on pension system reform Sasamori decisively said, “The pension reform draft which the government and ruling coalition parties are planning will only postpone our problems to the future and they are trying to push off burden-hikes and benefit-cuts and even an invasive tax hike onto our citizens. This revision draft must be scrapped.” Appealing to participants, he continued saying, “In order to eliminate a hollowing-out of the entire pension system, we must introduce a tax to pay for the basic pension, avoid placing too much burden on either labor or management, and stop benefit cuts. If we do not do this, we cannot establish a safe and reliable pension system.”
Afterwards, participants also expressed their anger. One attendee from TAISHOKUSHA-RENGO (Japan Federation of Senior Citizens and Retired Citizens Organizations,) who is also a pension beneficiary, said “now hard-hitting measures that tax pension beneficiaries’ pensions are about to be implemented in connection with money resources whenever raising the state’s contribution for pension reform. The content of the reform will reduce minimum benefit amounts and do away with exemptions for the elderly, which in turn will jeopardize the living standards of all pensioners. I am dead set against it!” he appealed.
Representing opinions from the young generation, another participant said that “we do not have trust in the system as to whether or not we will really ever be able to receive any pension benefits in future. The government’s draft just follows the same old reactionary pattern of responding to problems at hand, but not drastically resolving any problems.”
Representing opinions of part-time works, one participant said that “originally the discussion to extend to part-time workers applications to employee pension must have been held in order to create a neutral system for a variety of working patterns. Businesses bear a huge social responsibility to guarantee their workers in their old age. In reality however, necessary reform is only being postponed due to the selfish motives of corporations that do not want to bear the burden of social security. This is truly disgusting.”
Further, another participant representing a local region said that “if I were to calculate the amount of pension benefits that I would receive, there is not that much difference between that and welfare payments. There are many people who must work two or more part-time jobs at the same time, endure poor living standards, and keep on paying their national pension premiums. In circumstances like these we cannot allow any burden hikes or benefit cuts.” That participant called on the Secretary Generals from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party saying “Pensions should be used for the security of our citizen’s in their old age. I want you to represent our voices at the National Diet.”
Responding to these angry appeals from the attendees, RENGO General Secretary Kusano explained the high priority issues for the ongoing Diet session. The Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Okada and the Social Democratic Party General Secretary Mataichi gave speeches of solidarity, and two affiliated organizations officially declared their own resolutions. Afterward, the rally adopted an appeal and closed with a rousing three-part cheer in unison.