Volunteers offer jobless temps free food, advice

by Mariko Kato

Temp workers who have lost their jobs amid the global financial crisis lined up Wednesday for free food and consultations with volunteers at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park.

The event, sponsored by 20 groups, including unions, citizen groups and lawyers, will run through Monday.

The groups served up rice and pork miso soup and offered employment consultation and medical support, as well as mediating lodging services and organizing trips to public baths.

“I am grateful for having somewhere to come to over the New Year period, as I am currently homeless. The volunteers have been encouraging,” said a 38-year-old male ex-temp worker from Tokyo, who asked not to be named. “But I don’t yet have the prospect of a new job and next year is looking grim.”

By 3.30 p.m., 93 temp workers had visited the park, mostly men in their 30s to 50s, according to volunteer Tetsuya Takahashi, 40, who was working at the reception stand and said he expected the number to greatly increase over the next five days.

In addition to food, volunteers are offering consultations to former temp workers without a job or a place to stay while the government-run employment bureaus, known as Hello Work, are closed for the New Year holidays, according to a representative of Japan Community Union Federation, one of the volunteer groups sponsoring the event.

But what surprised the volunteer groups more was that some 350 unaffiliated individuals showed up to help out.

“There has been a significant number of independent volunteers who telephoned in or went straight to the village to offer their services,” said the union representative, who asked not to be named.

But more needs to be done to advertise the event, he said.

“I don’t think that the information has yet reached everyone who needs help. I hope it will become more known through exposure in the media,” he said.

Information from Kyodo added

Man wields knife

Kyodo News

An unemployed man was arrested on suspicion of wielding a knife in front of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, on Tuesday night, police said.

“The contract with my temporary job has expired, and it doesn’t look like I will get a job anytime soon. I wanted to release my stress,” police quoted Kenji Shiina, 28, as saying.

The police, who are holding Shiina for alleged violation of the Firearms and Swords Control Law, also quoted him as saying: “My contract terminated in mid-December. I wanted to express my existence to the public by threatening people with a knife.”

Shiina pulled out a 16-cm knife in front of the tower at 8:35 p.m. Tuesday. No one was hurt.