There are three different types of employment among salespeople at Tokyo Metro kiosks: “Regular Employee”, “A Contract”, and “B Contract”. Despite doing the same job together at the same kiosk, there is a great disparity in their working conditions. The Metrocommerce Branch of NUGW Tokyo East was formed in March, 2009, by women employed on B Contracts, the kind with the poorest conditions. Through collective bargaining, they have been able to rectify discrimination and realize fair treatment on many issues, such as bereavement leave, meal vouchers, hotel discounts as an employee benefit, and distribution of the company newsletter. B-Contract employees used to be paid the same hourly wage no matter how many years they had been working, but starting in April of 2010 they won the introduction of a system of regular pay raises: a 10-yen raise each year. Still, the wages remain low: a B-Contract worker, even if she works full time, will take home only 130,000 yen or so a month.
Regular employees’ pay scale goes up with age and with number of years worked. They also receive a housing allowance, a family allowance, and so on. B-Contract employees have none of these things. There is also a large gap in bonuses: believed to be a difference of at least 2 million yen per year. regular employees get severance pay when they retire, while those on the B Contract get not one yen. Nevertheless, the retirement age alone is the same as for regular workers, 65. With little savings or pension, at retirement these B-Contract workers are essentially turned out in the streets. Therefore, in March of last year, the Branch went on strike for the first time to oppose the mandatory retirement age. As a result, we won a half-year extension of Ms. Senuma’s employment. However, the main problem, wage discrimination, has still not disappeared.
On The 1st of May this year–May Day–the branch went on strike once again. 280 supporters gathered in front of Tokyo Metro’s head office and chanted “No more discrimination against irregular workers!” At the same time, they filed a suit claiming back pay for the amount of the difference in wages between themselves and regular employees–the first such suit to be filed anywhere in Japan under Article 20 of the newly-revised Labor Contracts Law that took effect in April of last year.
Winning this courtroom battle could lead to confirming rights and a living for all non-regular workers, not only for those at Metrocommerce. Therefore we are fighting with all our might. On the other hand, Tokyo East and the members of the Metrocommerce branch cannot win it alone. Only if all working people, including regular employees, stand together in struggle can we be a force that will move the company, the courts, and society. We must overcome all our differences–regular and irregular, men and women. Now is the time to raise our voices and stand up together to protect the lives and dignity of these irregular workers.
This is why we have planned an irregular workers’ assembly, as detailed below. The documentary films Metro Lady Blues (2013, 26min., Video Press) and Metro Lady Blues 2 (2014, 40min., Video Press), which portray the life and the struggle of the Metrocommerce branch members and received a great response, will be screened back-to-back. Also, in the second part, our Metrocommerce branch members will speak their hearts and minds under the title of “Metroladies, a True and Honest Talk”. The interviewer will be the Mainichi Shimbun reporter Tokairin Satoshi. We also plan to set up a consultation desk for irregular workers in the lobby of the venue. We hope that everyone will attend the gathering.
-Name: 11/22 Ganbare Metro Ladies! Irregular Workers’ Assembly
-Date and Time: Nov. 22, 2014 (Sat.), 2PM – 5PM (doors open at 1:30)
-Venue: Tamachi Kotsu Bldg., 6th floor Hall (3min. walk from Shibaura gate of JR Tamachi Station)
-Admission: Free (donations welcome)
-Sponsor: 11/22 Ganbare Metro Ladies! Irregular Workers’ Assembly Committee
-Contact: NUGW Tokyo East (tel: 03-3604-5983 email: info(at mark)toburoso.org)