Bus drivers in Okayama (April, 2018) have followed the lead of transportation workers in other countries and are using a little used type of industrial action. Rather than strike and cause disruption to the public, drivers are refusing to collect fares, allowing passengers to travel for free.
While this approach has been used recently in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland, it actually dates back more than 70 years. In Cleveland , Ohio, 1944 saw streetcar conductors refusing to collect fares in a bid to win higher wages. Wikipedia also reports (unsourced) that this had already occurred in Latin American and Europe prior to 1944.
A traditional strike would usually alienate the public, with drivers being accused of being selfish. This “action” has been successful in garnering public support in Okayama. Time will tell how effective this action will be in winning the drivers’ demands for job security.
The General Union itself has been ground breaking in the use of industrial action. The 11 Minute Strike!
In the 1990s members and Nichbei Eigo Gakuin were in a protracted battle that eventually saw the company fire union leaders. The fight lasted a number of years and it was eventually solved with the company taking back the fired workers. Even to this day some of the original strikers still working at Nichibei.
Nichibei’s continued use of strike breakers meant that the union had to look at new ways. Simple walkouts were no longer working as the company paid strike breakers to sit and wait.
After carefully studying Trade Union Law union leaders realized that nothing in the law governed the length of a strike. While potentially risky, eleven minute strikes were decided upon. Such short strikes meant the loss of wages was minimal for striking teachers but they were effective. And they actually gained the support of students.
And while there were worries in the Japan labor movement about such short strikes, they were later proven to be legal.
Sources –Asahi Shimbun