• Kyodo

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An organization that supervises foreign trainees brought to Japan under the Technical Intern Training Program attempted to pressure a 25-year-old man from the Philippines to leave his labor union, the union said.

The man arrived in Japan in April 2015 and began working at a construction company in Saitama Prefecture, with three other trainees, the union said Sunday. All were subjected to regular physical and verbal abuse by their superiors, which led them to join the Kanagawa City Union in December 2016.

The labor union subsequently sent a request to AHM Cooperation, the body that oversees the trainees during their time in Japan, to find them a new workplace.

But in April 2017, AHM faxed the labor union a letter asking that the four be withdrawn from the union because the Immigration Bureau and the state-backed Japan International Training Cooperation Organization (JITCO) had advised that no companies would be willing to accept foreign interns who are unionized.

The labor union contends this is a violation of the trainees’ constitutional rights and has asked a prefectural labor relations committee to step in.

“The move revealed that organizations involved in the foreign trainee program, including (AHM) and JITCO, worked to exclude the labor union,” said Satoshi Murayama, who heads the Kanagawa City Union. “They are not accepting foreign trainees in an environment where human rights are ensured and where (employers) abide by labor laws.

“The core problem is the foreign trainee program, in which they are treated as mere cheap labor,” Murayama said.

Officials at both AHM and JITCO declined to comment because the case was being examined by the labor relations committee.

The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau also declined to comment on the case but said that, generally speaking, the bureau does not advise that trainees leave their labor unions.

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