Watami Unionized - Is that a good thing?

Watami (a chain of Japanese Izakaiya pubs) have recently made the Japanese newspapers over the announcement of a new union of 13,000 people. Only time will tell what that means. The major newspapers though, have failed to even attempt to analyze what the sudden appearance of such a large in-house union really means.

When a union of 13,000 suddenly appears, and has a compulsory membership placed upon employees... well, we have our doubts. 

One thing though - the agreement between the management and union, forced upon all employees, certainly promises a guaranteed income for the union.


We have a number of questions

What benefit did the company get by signing the agreement, especially when there wasn't a movement amongst the workers? Is it a "company union" that will do the bidding of management while ignoring the will of the workers? Is the intent noble, or is it merely a smokescreen to distract from the recent negativity the company has received as a "black corporation"?

Have the workers been told that while union membership is now compulsory, that under Japanese Trade Union law they actually have the right to join the union of their choice? Were people coerced to join this new union in particular?


Some Guesses

We may be wrong but we expect that the union had worker representatives sign off on allowing overtime and/or setting paid annual leave. Without these agreements being lodged with the government , the company cannot legally do either of these things. We imagine the company has been breaking these laws for a long time. By now complying with the law over this Watami is most likely hoping to clean up their image.

The same kind of unions exists (or existed) in eikaiwa (language schools) at ECC (for Japanese workers) and at Coco Juku. Many members have told us that both unions pay lip service to working for the members. Will the Watami union do the bidding of management? Or go to bat for their members? Only time will tell.


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