4.21 Action at Diet: Block Negative Pension Reform
2400 People in Attendance
30 April 2004
Photo: Shouting slogans at the Diet to block the government’s bill.
On April 21, RENGO conducted its "4.21 Action at Diet: Block Negative Pension Reform." 2,375 union members with lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party participated in the rally which was conducted before the Diet building as well as in an adjacent sit-in, in order to pledge to block the passing of the pension bill by the government.
Under the blaze of what felt like the early summer sun, the sit-in was conducted in front of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors Member Office Buildings at 10 in the morning by union members from each RENGO Local of Kanto-block area, as well as members from RENGO Local of Fukushima, Niigata, and Kagawa. Before noon, the members of RENGO Local of Tokyo joined the advance groups and held rallies in the Diet buildings at each of the Upper and Lower House member visitor areas. House of Representatives member Kenji Yamaoka, the Democratic Party of Japan Pension Reform Promotion Headquarters General Secretary reported on the status of Diet deliberations at the House of Representatives visitor area, and House of Councillors member Yuko Mori also of the Democratic Party of Japan and House of Councilors Committee on Health, Welfare and Labour Director updated members on the deliberation conditions at the House of Councillors visitor area.
At noon, an "Angry Lunch Hour Rally" was held in front of the 2nd Office Building for House of Representatives Members. Speaking to the union members who were participating in a sit-in that filled the sidewalk as well as to other participants at the rallies in the Diet, RENGO President Sasamori was critical saying that "this Pension Act revision bill, which the government touts as its grand plan for the long-term future security of the nation is the worst bill ever; it will cut benefits, increase burdens, and even raise taxes." He then offered an appeal by saying "the ruling parties are prepared to railroad the bill through just before the extended holiday season in May. The Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party have been desperately trying to block the bill but the situation now appears to be hopeless. Let RENGO comprehensively mobilize the will of the nation as a representative of the working people, rise up and stop any negative changes to the pension system and let us make a Japan where one can lead life with a smile."
Sixty seven House members from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party rushed over to join the rallies and encourage the union members there as well as to declare their strong determination to fight the issue in the Diet. Democratic Party of Japan Senior Vice President Hajime Ishii gave a speech on behalf of his party and said "let us steamroller the government’s bill with momentum that will be gained through victory at the by-election in the House of Representatives scheduled for April 25." Democratic Party of Japan Pension Reform Promotion Headquarters General Secretary Kenji Yamaoka touched on an incident regarding their party's House of Representative member Yasuko Komiyama who was injured in a row over holding the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labour and Welfare on April 16. He stated with strong determination that "we will never allow the government’s bill, which lawmakers who have received vast amounts of donations from the Japan Dentists Federation are going out of their way to push through by committing acts of violence to others, to pass. Let's fight together through RENGO and the Democratic Party of Japan with one heart and mind." Further, representing the Social Democratic Party, leader Mizuho Fukushima told attendees that "Just one week after the government bill was submitted to the Diet, Prime Minister Koizumi mentioned the idea of integrating the pension system (integrating the national pension, employees' pension and mutual aid pension is favorable). However, Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Sakaguchi is now saying that we should discuss the integration issue after the government bill has passed. Our trust in the government’s bill has already been destroyed. Let's crush such a mockery of a bill that disrespects our citizens." Democratic Party of Japan member and House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labour and Welfare Senior Director Masamitsu Jojima joined the rally in order to encourage the union members in attendance and so did Social Democratic Party member and Party Policy Deliberation Council Chair Tomoko Abe.
Finally, RENGO Local of Tokyo General Secretary Endo and RENGO Local of Kanagawa President Makabe each expressed their determination to the crowd. The sidewalks behind the Diet as well as those in front of House Members Office Buildings were packed with union members and their vigorous shouts "Fight to Unite!" filled with a determination to stop the government’s proposed bill echoed over the Diet.