The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), Japan’s largest labor organization, in its Oct. 4-5 convention decided to pursue a society that will eventually stop relying on nuclear power. This is a departure from its earlier policy of pushing building of new nuclear power plants. Within Rengo, power company unions that support the promotion of nuclear power are a strong force.

Rengo’s leadership should be praised for correctly understanding the severity of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and responding to the public’s strong call for phasing out nuclear power.

Rengo President Nobuaki Koga told the convention that the Fukushima crisis has made the leadership realize that when an accident happens at a nuclear power plant, it causes enormous damage. Since Rengo is the biggest supporter of the Democratic Party of Japan, it is hoped that its decision will positively affect the DPJ and the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

In order to reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear power, Rengo has proposed securing alternative energy sources that can replace nuclear power, aggressively promoting renewable energy sources and pushing energy-saving measures. As a short-term measure to secure a sufficient supply of energy, Rengo has accepted restarting nuclear power plants currently out of operation on the condition that the government strengthens and verifies their safety and that local people accept their restart.

To realize a non-nuclear society, Rengo should work out a road map that identifies a target year when all the nation’s nuclear power plants would permanently cease operations and submit it to the government.

Upon his re-election as Rengo president, Mr. Koga said that Rengo will vigorously push the reconstruction of the areas affected by the March 11 triple disasters and make efforts so that the reconstruction will lead to the building of a society in which “work will become its axis” and people feel safe about their lives.

Irregular workers now account for more than 30 percent of Japan’s work force. Rengo should join hands with them to improve their working conditions and stabilize their employment situation. It must increase its membership, now 6.8 million, down from the 8 million at the time of its inception in 1989, as well as write a blueprint for Japan to overcome deflation and the effects of the graying of the population.

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