Unified Action for Secure Pension Reform

Angry Voices Nationwide Call Out

02 April 2004
On March 30, before entering full-scale deliberations on the pension bill, RENGO conducted its "Attain Safe and Reliable Pension Reform! United Action" in order to appeal the withdrawal of a government bill that would increase pension burdens and reduce benefits without any fundamental reform.

Each local RENGO conducted rallies and on-the-street actions on this national united action day (some local RENGO conducted their actions within a day or two). At 6:30 in the evening, they orchestrated a nationwide simultaneous shouting of the slogan: "Let's block unfavorable pension change! We will fight until we gain reform!" Each morning paper also ran RENGO opinion ads which RENGO paid for with funds raised from fund-raising drives in order to support pension reform activities.

Photo: Workers from across the nation called out in unison. (March 30, Hibiya Amphitheater) Photo: Workers from across the nation called out in unison. (March 30, Hibiya Amphitheater)
3,400 people attended the RENGO Central Pep Rally to Realize RENGO Demands at the Hibiya Amphitheatre, Tokyo in spite of rainy weather. Following the opening slogan chanting at the outset of the rally, RENGO president Sasamori gave a speech on behalf of the organizers. He said "the government bill postpones every important issue to the future including such measures as how to cope with the hollowing-out of the National Pension program, raising the state's liability, and expanding applications to part-time workers. It is a mere tinkering of numbers of burden hikes and benefit cuts." Sasamori continued his sharp criticisms by saying that "Prime Minister Koizumi's telling remark that 'it is worth having discussions with the opposition parties on such matters as the integration of pensions,' speaks for itself; that is, the current government bill is not worthy of being called radical reform. Despite that, at today's Diet Steering Committee meeting (Committee on Rules and Administration), the ruling parties unilaterally decided to propose the bill at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on April 1st." Offering his appeal Sasamori said, "let us block the government bill by any means, realize the safe pension reform which RENGO is seeking, develop citizen's movements across the nation, and reaffirm the consensus of this rally to fight in all seriousness until the end."

Afterwards, rally attendees heard encouraging remarks by representatives from the Democratic and Social Democratic Parties of Japan. DPJ Policy Research Committee Chair Edano stressed that "at every proposed pension reform up to this time, the government has postponed conducting radical reform and repeatedly raised burdens and cut benefits. The worse part is that the contents of this reform bill involve burden hikes and benefit decreases that will continue in the future. We will never allow such deceitful methods. The DPJ will mobilize every citizen's anger and use the full extent of its party's power to fight jointly to the end."

Social Democratic Party Policy Research Committee Chair Abe said, "the decision made by the steering committee today as well as the flap over the pension television advertisements by actress Makiko Esumi (it was made public that the actress had not paid her national pension premiums despite urging the public to pay them in the ads) illustrate the government and ruling parties glaring neglect of its own citizens. One cannot speak of radical pension system reform while neglecting the very real conditions surrounding insecure employees which have expanded to such an alarming degree." Expressing determination, Abe said that "now is the high time that we should hold a national debate, including discussions over the drafts prepared by the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party. Let us support our solidarity until the end."

Further, the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers' Unions (JAW) Assistant General Secretary Kondo, RENGO Local of Tokyo General Secretary Endo, and the Japan Federation of Senior Citizens and Retired Citizens Organizations General Secretary Abe each decisively expressed their determination by saying "let us fight together for radical reform." Finally, attendees adopted the rally appeal: Let's take action! Send out the people's angry voices from every workplace and locality saying 'We don't need this government bill!' Following the adoption of this slogan the rally was closed.