Stop Police Suppression Of Union Activities

Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch (All-Japan Construction and Transport Workers’ Solidarity Union, Kansai Regional Ready-Mix Concrete Branch) has been subjected to an unprecedented crackdown by prefectural police in Osaka and Shiga Prefectures. Many of our fellow members have been arrested and re-arrested.

Osaka and Shiga Prefectural Police are treating Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch as racketeers that interfere in civil affairs and threaten violence. Thus, they have concluded that collective bargaining is “blackmail”, and that all kinds of protests and other group actions are “forcible obstruction of business” and “extortion”. 

These are all legitimate labour union activities under the Trade Union Law. As for Shiga Prefectural Police, their investigation is being carried out by the Organized Crime Section that specializes in taking measures against the mob.

Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch has fought many disputes over its long history, and has filed complaints of multiple unfair labour practices at regional Labour Commissions.

This requires qualification screening by the Labour Commission and each time Rentai Union has been recognized as a labour union based on Article 2 of the Labour Union Act.

The activities of Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch are legitimate union activities, based on the right to organize and the rights to bargain and act collectively as guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution.

The aim of this suppression is to dismantle an industrial union that opposes the construction monopoly and a union that was realized through long years of struggle.

In order to protect workers’ wages and work conditions from construction companies’ hard bargains in ready-mix concrete, Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch got small and mid-size ready-mix businesses to come together into a cooperative association to order and sell jointly, thus optimizing the prices of ready-mix concrete.

As a result, the Osaka Wide-Area Cooperative Association became the largest ready-mix concrete cooperative association in the country with 164 member companies (as of December 2017).

But then some of the Wide-Area Cooperative Association’s executives, in order to monopolize the profits gained from the raised prices of concrete, began using the “Zaitokukai” (an ultra-nationalist and far-right extremist political organization) and others to attack the Union.

The police authorities, following he wishes of the Abe government, are making use of these moves by the Association to carry out their suppression against Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch.

Kan-Nama Branch is a union that has opposed the Abe government’s attempts to change the Constitution to allow Japan to fight wars on foreign soil; has been at the center of workers’ and citizens’ fight for the antiwar peace movement and against nuclear power, and sometimes been its shield; and has undertaken many kinds of struggles including street action.

This is the sort of union the government wants to destroy, even if it means riding roughshod over the Constitution.

The crackdown against Rentai Union Kan-Nama Branch raises the possibility that other labour unions’ collective bargaining and protest actions, connected to all sorts of disputes, may also be suppressed and called “extortion” or “forcible obstruction of business”.

The police have begun a “conspiracy-type” crackdown: by means of indiscriminate mass arrests, gathering information from seized computers and smartphones, using and distorting this information to trump-up criminal charges, and arresting people who weren’t even there by accusing them of conspiracy.

If we let this happen, it will not be only the labour movement, but also citizens’ movements against the Abe government’s war-making policies that may see their street actions and protests suppressed with similar methods.

Anti-base struggles starting with those in Takae and Henoko, Okinawa, as well as the fights against nuclear power, against the gutting of the Constitution, and to protect democracy, may become targets and lead to “conspiracy” charges.

The General Union has been taking part in weekly protests at the Osaka Prefectural Police Headquarters (sign up to attend) and will be donating funds as well as appealing to members for donations.

These funds are being collected by the “Committee to Stop the Suppression of Labour Unions” and will be used to cover legal expenses and the bail of members being held in remand.


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