Japanese labour unions feel pain of new era
Aljazeera -- Feb 19

The "spring offensive" used to strike fear into the hearts of Japan's industrial managers. Labour union demands for wage increases were boldly submitted. To underline their steely determination, workers walked off the job in the spring.

Trains were halted, leaving millions of commuters stranded and angry. The world watched to see how many days or weeks it would take Japanese business leaders to fold and to agree to wage hikes large enough to satisfy the labour union negotiators.

But that was the character of Japan from the 1950s to '70s - the high-growth era in which this East Asian nation rose from the ashes of a bitter wartime defeat to eventually reach the heady status of the number-two economic power in the world.

Even before that earlier period ended, shunto, the Japanese term for "spring offensive", had become more of a ritual than anything else, and union militancy faded perceptibly as the years went by. Today it is practically unknown.

"In the 1970s, there were almost 6,000 strikes on an average year, but last year there were only 68," Motoaki Nakaoka, general secretary of the National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo), points out. "This is an era in which even the labour leaders don't know what it is like to prevail in a strike."

It is not only Japanese labour activism whose effectiveness is in question, but the very existence of Japanese labour unions themselves. According to a comprehensive survey carried out by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the proportion of Japanese workers who are members of labour unions has fallen to 17.9 percent. At its peak in the early postwar years, that figure was above 55 percent.

Many factors contributed to this steady decline in the power of labour organisation in Japan, and it's a story familiar to many developed nations.

For one thing, Japan's conservative governments became less tolerant of labour activism and large-scale strikes as the years went by. Socialist and communist parties with which labour unions were affiliated either weakened substantially at the polls, or else disappeared altogether.

News source: Aljazeera

Apr 18 Bird fu in Japan has same virus type as S. Korea flu
Japan's farm ministry said Thursday that the highly pathogenic avian influenza found at a poultry farm in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kumamoto has been confirmed to be the H5N8 subtype, the same virus strain as the bird flu found in South Korea. (Jiji Press )
Apr 18 Station lockers to close for Obama visit
Train operators in Tokyo and surrounding areas will be shutting down coin-operated luggage lockers at main stations before and during US President Barack Obama's visit next week, as a security measure. (NHK )
Apr 18 Car being chased by police plunges into sea, killing driver
A man was killed after the car he was driving plunged into the sea while he was being chased by a police car in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, on Thursday morning. (Japan Today )
Apr 17 Contaminated water leaks from container at Fukushima plant
Just over one ton of water contaminated with radioactive particulates leaked from one of the containment vessels at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said. (Japan Today )
Apr 17 Japan to secure minimum required power supply capacity in summer
Japan is expected to secure the minimum required power supply capacity when electricity demand peaks in August, even if all the country's nuclear reactors remain offline, estimates by major regional utilities showed Thursday. (Kyodo )
Apr 18 Homemaker joins Japan girl band AKB48
Japanese commercial music juggernaut AKB48 has added a 37-year-old mother of two to the wildly popular all-girl group as it looks to broaden the appeal of its teen-dominated line-up. (AFP )
Apr 18 Imperial couple hosts spring garden party
Japan's Emperor and Empress have hosted more than 2,000 guests at their Spring Imperial Garden Party. (NHK )
Apr 18 Man jumps to death from 8th floor of Foreign Ministry building
An employee of the Foreign Ministry jumped to his death from the 8th floor at the ministry, police said Thursday. (Japan Today )
Apr 17 Man in his 30s being questioned over murder of 7-year-old girl in 2005
Tochigi prefectural police said Thursday that they are questioning a man in his 30s over the murder of a 7-year-old girl in December 2005. Japanese media quoted police as saying that the man, who was arrested for dealing in fake brand-name goods, has hinted at his involvement in the murder. (Japan Today )
Apr 17 6-year-old boy dead, 3-year-old girl in coma after being swept away in river
A 6-year-old boy died and a 3-year-old girl remains in a coma after they were swept away by a strong current in a river in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on Wednesday afternoon. (Japan Today )
Apr 17 Spectacular snow walls
People enjoy viewing the 15-meter snow walls of the Yuki no Otani (Great Snow Valley), along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that passes through the Northern Japan Alps to link Toyama and Nagano prefectures. (The Japan News )
Apr 17 24-year-old man arrested for robbing convenience store
Police in Tokyo said Wednesday they have arrested an unemployed 24-year-old man for robbing a convenience store in Shibuya. (Japan Today )
Apr 16 Population declines for 3rd straight year
The nation's population has slipped for the third straight year to a 13-year low, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Tuesday. (The Japan News )
Apr 16 Anne Frank vandalism suspect to face psychiatric test
Tokyo prosecutors plan to look into whether a man, who has been arrested for allegedly vandalizing copies of Anne Frank's diary, is mentally competent to be held criminally responsible for his actions, informed sources said Wednesday. (Jiji Press )
Apr 16 Young salmon released into river in Fukushima
Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture have released young salmon into a local river for the first time in 4 years. (NHK )