Unionists observed the 69th May Day event at about 1,100 sites across the country amid a gloomy economic atmosphere.
Labor organizers estimated the nationwide turnout at about 2 million, though police estimates place the participant count at about 270,000.
All labor groups called for employment security and large tax cuts in their May Day slogans, which fall on the heels of statistics showing the unemployment rate shot up to its highest-ever level as a result of the economic slowdown and industrial structure reform.
This year, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) and its rival bodies, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) and the National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo), again held functions at different locations. Rengo member organizations once marked the day with festive activities but this year held May Day parades for the first time in seven years.
In their May Day declaration, the Rengo groups stressed their call for a change in government, intensifying their confrontational stance toward the bureaucracy and ruling Liberal Democratic Party with the Upper House election coming in July.
All the union made clear their opposition to the proposed revision of the Labor Standard Law now under deliberation in the current Diet session, asserting it would worsen working conditions. About 100,000 workers participated in Rengo’s central rally in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park.
Naoto Kan, leader of the newly formed Democratic Party of Japan, Labor Minister Bunmei Ibuki and Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima were present at the rally to extend their congratulations. Etsuya Washio, Rengo president, criticized the LDP-centered government, accusing it of acting slow in propping up the economy and moving to make what he called bad labor law revisions.
About 100,000 workers participated in Zenroren’s central rally in Kameido Central Park in Tokyo. Yoji Kobayashi, Zenroren president, declared the proposed labor revisions would undermine the foundation of workers’ lives and health and urged the participants to scrap them.
Speaking as a guest at the rally, Japanese Communist Party Chairman Tetsuzo Fuwa called on participants to push for the resignation of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, asserting it is following an evil administrative course.
Participants also underscored their opposition toward the new Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and called for the scrapping of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
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