On September 25 RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held a rally in Tokyo to kick off an across-the-nation relay aimed at preventing the undesirable revision of worker protection rules. The rally was attended by 4,178 people from affiliated unions around the country, regional branches of RENGO, and other related organizations.
RENGO President Nobuaki Koga delivered a speech at the beginning of the rally, saying, "At a time when more than 100 people are dying from overwork [karoshi] every year, the government is trying to revise worker protection rules for the worse. Priority must be given not to policies that reduce the amount of overtime pay to zero but to policies that reduce the number of deaths from overwork to zero. A crucial moment is approaching for the protection of lives, health, and jobs, and RENGO is determined to do all we can." President Koga went on, "We will do our utmost in the Diet in collaboration with the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties and, through the solidarity of workers, we will try and stop this undesirable revision of worker protection rules being promoted by the government."
Ms. Emiko Teranishi, representative of the National Association of Bereaved Families of Karoshi Victims, then took the stage, arousing the sympathy of the participants by proclaiming that her own tragedy of losing her husband to death from overwork must not be repeated.
Similar rallies were held in northernmost Hokkaido and southernmost Okinawa to kick off the across-the-nation relay, which will link appeals for prevention of the undesirable revision of worker protection rules around the country during the extraordinary session of the Diet. The three venues were linked by live transmission.
Addressing the participants, RENGO General Secretary Rikio Kozu said that "What the government should be doing is protecting workers who toil by the sweat of their brows. Together with as many people as possible, let's create a tide against the undesirable revision of worker protection rules." He also urged workplaces to make sure there are no deaths from overwork in November, which is an awareness-raising month under the Act to Promote Measures against Karoshi, Etc., and called on all unions to declare their opposition to the relaxation of working-hour regulations.
Following the kickoff rally, RENGO will divide its regional branches into nine blocks and hold an across-the-nation appeal relay culminating in another rally to be held in Tokyo on December 5.
The September 25 rally ended with unanimous approval of a resolution declaring the start of part three of RENGO's campaign to "Stop the unequal society! Raise the level of living standards!"