The Odawara Municipal Office has taken seven officials to task after dozens of public workers and contractors bought jackets bearing an English phrase calling illegitimate welfare recipients "dregs," it said Tuesday.
According to the Kanagawa Prefecture city, 64 employees — including welfare case workers — purchased the jackets with their own money, and some city officials wore the jackets when they visited the homes of welfare recipients.
Printed on the back of the jackets were broken English phrases such as "Finding injustice of them, we chase them and punish injustice to accomplish the proper execution" and "If they try to deceive us for gaining a profit by injustice, 'We dare to say, They are dregs!' "
Odawara Mayor Kenichi Kato said in a statement, "Whatever the reason might be, it was an inconsiderate and inappropriate expression. I feel regretful." He added, "I will instruct them to make sure that they won't do anything misleading."
The city has banned the jackets.
According to the city, a man who lost his welfare status attacked two officials with a box cutter at City Hall in July 2007, prompting a leader of the welfare section to order the jackets in a bid to raise the morale of workers.
The person who served as the section leader at that time has told the city that the message was aimed at its workers, not at welfare recipients.
Tetsuro Kokubo, a lawyer in a group helping social welfare recipients nationwide, criticized the workers involved, saying, "It was an outrageous incident" given only about 0.5 percent of the entire amount of the benefits goes to illegitimate recipients.