The ‘wild group’ hits back The branch scored a major victory, however, with the repeal of the 5-year employment limit in October 2002. The retaliation started quickly, even before the announcement of the decision. The branch leader was suddenly the target of an extraordinary campaign of harassment by the two main members of the ‘wild group’ in the board, Umeoka and Sakurai. He didn’t have a degree! His employment from 2003 could not be guaranteed! The reality was that they had known this for years, but were desperately rummaging around for ammunition against the GU. We beat off this attack, and the next year the branch forged on with new demands; a union office and notice board. On 27 November last year, the board struck back in earnest. A ‘proposal’ to cut pay by 40,000 yen was sent to the union. This turned out to be a cut only for the union member teachers, not for non-union teachers doing the same job hired from the sister city in the USA. This was a clear Unfair Labour Practice, against the Trade Union Law (‘disadvantageous treatment of union members’), and the union demanded negotiations in an attempt to persuade the Board to back down. Slash that deficit, smash that union! On 8 December, collective bargaining was held, and the board claimed the cut was because of the city’s financial crisis. How saving 4 million yen a year for Nishinomiya City would solve that deficit was not obvious to our members, and a ‘lively’ exchange followed, with members demanding to know the extent of the Board’s bureaucrats’ own pay cuts. After at first refusing to answer, they in the end admitted it amounted to 0.2%, as opposed to the proposed 12% for our members. On 16 December, the Board sent their reply, after considering our protests, but it was totally unsatisfactory: they failed to retract the proposal. The union’s counterblow fell swiftly. A strike was arranged for the very next day. Low level That evening, after getting wind of the strike, Board officials committed an astonishingly low level Unfair Labour Practice by calling round members’ homes, prying for information and in effect putting pressure on them (and their wives, in some instances!) by telling them to come to work as usual the next day, as no strike notice had been received. The implication was that the strike would be illegal. They should have known very well that courts have ruled that strikes must be preceded by a strike notice, but that does not mean unions cannot give in the notice 2 minutes before the strikes commence…which is exactly what was to happen. Mayor forced to face the facts The next morning, branch members along with fellow union members from other workplaces descended on the Board of Education and City Hall, handing over the strike notice and picketing the building with a megaphone and leafleting of the general public. Some confused bureaucrats came out to protest, “You can’t just strike like this; you have to try mediation at the Labour Commission”, thereby compounding their feverish telephone calls of the night before with a new attempt to obstruct the right to strike. The branch leader even managed to explain the dispute to the mayor of the city, Mr Yamada, as he was pulling into the car park. The stage was set now for the Labour Commission. The Board’s violations of the Trade Union Law were clear, they were not backing down, and so we were left with no choice. The Unfair Labour Practices was filed at Osaka Labour Commission on 28 January, followed by a press conference in Kobe. The next morning the story appeared in the Asahi, Mainichi and Kobe Shimbun. Meanwhile, we are continuing to try to settle the issue through negotiations. The next is scheduled for 13 February. Support the struggle! We hope the city realises the grotesque unfairness of its actions and comes to Osaka with the intention of settling this dispute, but we ask all members of the union to stand with their fellow members at Nishinomiya and support them to the end in this fight. Opening session, Labour Commission case: 17 February.