The National Trade Union Council (Osaka Zenrokyo) convened its regular conference on 22nd July 2023, a long-awaited in-person event following a period of online gatherings. With 31 delegates and 25 delegates by proxy, the conference proceeded smoothly. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the past scaled-down gatherings, this conference witnessed a revitalised spirit, extending a warm welcome to esteemed guests from the Osaka Union Network, All Japan Construction and Transport Solidarity Union (Zen-Nikken), All Japan Dock Workers Union (Zen-Kowan), and from the National Confederation of Trade Union (Zenroren) headquarters.
During the guest speeches, significant issues came to the fore. The Supreme Court’s decision, which acknowledged discrimination against non-regular workers, is insufficient to eradicate such discrimination. Similarly, a stark reminder emerged as the audience learned of the parallel suppression faced by both the Kan’nama branch in Japan and unions in Korea. Zen-Kowan emphasised the vital need to resist complacency in the face of improved conditions. These points and the current juncture, marking a generational transition for the Osaka Zenrokyo, prompted attendees to contemplate these important considerations.
Among the guest speakers, Yuuko Ohtsubaki, a member of the Education Workers Amalgamated Union (EWA), and a sitting member of the House of Councillors, extended her gratitude for our collective efforts during elections. She declared, “My present self owes much to the joint struggle with the EWA members. I intend to utilise this position to champion workers’ rights.”
Chaired by Ishihara of the YMCA Labor Union and facilitated by Kusumi of the National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro), the conference reached numerous decisions. A comprehensive and proposed strategy for our ongoing battles was unanimously adopted. While the global landscape, particularly in Europe, underscores the growing influence of certain right-wing factions in countries like France, Spain, Sweden, and Finland, a parallel dynamic seems to be unfolding in Japan. The rise of the Ishin party in locales such as Osaka, Hyogo, and Kawasaki City, with their focus on human rights issues, carries the potential for reactionary forces to gain ground. In response, an unwavering strategy was embraced. A special resolution emerged, underscoring a collective commitment to combat regressive refugee laws, uphold the integrity of LGBTQ legislation, counter the continuous exploitation of non-regular workers, and voice outrage over the discharge of nuclear plant-contaminated water. The conference declaration rallied attendees under the resolute banner raised by new Secretary-General Tomonobu Hideo, calling for unity in the face of challenges.
Moreover, this conference served as a turning point for Osaka Zenrokyo’s secretariat, as veteran leaders Vice Chair Niwa, General Secretary Takabayashi, and Deputy General Secretary Jose stepped down from their roles. In their place, Osaka Zenrokyo saw a generational shift with the appointment of Chairperson Minami Mamoru, and Secretary-General Hideo Tomonobu; the reappointment of Vice Chairpersons Dennis Tesolat, Masuda Toshimichi, and Kamon Kazuhiro ensures the organization’s stability and continuity. Retiring member Takabayashi additionally assumed a new role as an advisor, contributing valuable experience to the ongoing endeavors.