Laid-off workers protest at Isuzu


Some 300 seasonal and former temp workers of Isuzu Motor Co. and union members held a protest Wednesday in front of the company’s head office in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, claiming their right to work to the end of their contracts.

Major truck company Isuzu announced Dec. 24 that it would not cancel the contracts of some 550 seasonal workers following union negotiations and the government’s request to maintain a stable employment situation.

Originally, the company had planned to lay off around 1,400 temporary and seasonal workers by Dec. 26 at two factories, in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and in Taihei, Tochigi Prefecture.

The temporary workers are employed by staffing agencies, which dispatch them to Isuzu, while the seasonal workers are directly employed by Isuzu on a temporary basis.

Although Isuzu decided not to cancel seasonal workers’ contracts, the company asked them to agree to leave by the date it initially suggested.

Isuzu declined to reveal the number of seasonal workers who quit voluntarily, but nearly 90 percent of them have already left the company, according to Takashi Ukai, chairman of the Kanagawa district of the All Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers Union.

“It’s quite obvious Isuzu just wanted to lay off seasonal workers by giving them benefits of voluntary retirement,” he said.

If seasonal workers agree to voluntary retirement, Isuzu is offering them 85 percent of their salary based on the number of days worked until the end of their contracts. Those who do not agree to retire will only receive 60 percent of their salary based on the number of days worked, or about ¥100,000 per month.

Makoto Suzuki, 35, and Satoshi Kawase, 41, are two of the few seasonal workers who decided to stay on.

“I don’t understand why Isuzu can pay a lot to shareholders but cannot pay our salary,” said Suzuki, who has been working there for three years.

He received notification Dec. 24 that seasonal workers’ contracts were not being canceled and was asked to consider dissolving his contract voluntarily. “We had only two days to decide. I felt it was quite forceful,” he said.

Kawase, who has been engaged in the manufacturing industry since graduating from high school and has been working at Isuzu for nearly 3 1/2 years, said he is angry at the government for allowing firms to carry out massive job cuts.

“They should have realized this could happen when they loosened the regulations of the labor dispatch law,” he said.

Dispatching temporary workers in the manufacturing industry started when the labor dispatch law was relaxed in 2003. Because deregulation is considered to have contributed to an unstable employment condition, the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, announced Jan. 8 that together with other opposition parties it will submit a bill to ban the dispatch of temp workers in manufacturing.

Kawase also wonders whether the government is aware laid-off temporary and seasonal workers can end up homeless after using up their savings.

“The current system of employing nonregular workers (in manufacturing) created a vicious circle that people at the bottom of the social scale can never escape,” he said.