A new, horizontal type of labor union emerged!
The Message of All Toyota Labor Union President
Last January 22nd, after one year of deliberate preparation, another labor union
was organized at TOYOTA jointly by the workers of Toyota Motor Corporation as
well as Toyota affiliate companies, namely DENSO, AISIN, and JTEKT. The union is
called All Toyota Labor Union (ATU). It was indeed ironic for Toyota Labor Union
to observe the 60th anniversary of its establishment of on exactly the same day as
this new union saw the light of day.
Since we started our first day at work, we have long been bounded by the
union-shop contracts --- mandate that all workers at a given employer must join
the union --- a structure of one corporation with one labor union has been prevailing
and this system has been unchallenged for a very long time. Meanwhile, we the employees
even had no right at all to choose which union to join.
ATU is completely different from the existing unions that only accept
full-timers from the viewpoint of whether or not opening the door to all the employees
regardless of one's employment status.
1. ATU is a single, independent, horizontal organization open to anyone who wishes
to be a member on an individual basis.
2. ATU is open to ALL the workers at Toyota affiliate companies regardless of
one's status as full-timer or part-timer.
3. ATU is open to managerial staff and foreigners as well.
The raison d'etre as labor unions is called into question.
The automobil industry in Japan has grown into a key industry that has a very
broad base and extended its production sites rapidly toward overseas. All the
Toyota group companies are putting pressures on workers to increase their global
competitiveness while spreading out the cost cutting schemes at a breakneck
pace. As a result, majority of the workers suffer from low wages and long
working hours while being forced to work under extremely harsh working conditions
where health hazards or mental problems are not uncommon and even "overwork
death" is widely observed.
We believe it is the social responsibility of the Toyota group and the labor
union to create a workplace where the workers can work in safety and peace without
having any worres. As we now increasingly hear fearful cries raised by the workers,
we cannot afford to waste time any longer to address the fundamental reason of the
existence of the labor union.
Does the labor union exist at Toyota?
The reason why we ask this question is because of an event observed during the
annual spring wage round in 2002. The company flatly rejected to increase the
base pay though it had gained as much as 1 trillion yen of absolute profits for
the previous year. Nevertheless, the union didn't challenge to the company to increase
the base pay for more than three years. This incident roused the workers' anger. We
were filled with resentment as we didn't find any good reason why and for whom
the union is existing for while enjoying a cozy relationship that the union had with
the employers. In the past, the advocacy of unified labor and management relation was
as follows: "if the company improves its performance (implying that workers
should do their best), the workers' living will also improve". Finally, this
proved to be a false argument.
A viewpoint of building a nation required from the labor movement now
We strive to improve social status of all the workers at Toyota affiliate
companies and their family members while protecting their lives, rights, and
well-being through the enforcement of the workers' rights: the right to
organize, the right to bargain collectively and the right to act collectively,
which are all stipulated in the Constitution of Japan and the Labor Union Law.
Government and business community have together been pushing forward the
neo-liberal economic scheme by placing first priority on profit seeking under
the pretext of deregulation measures. Seeking only for profits and efficiency in
operating business has generated and revealed rampant wrongdoings of
corporations. Besides, the market-oriented philosophy encouraged by both the
government and the business community has fueled a cut-throat competition among
people while widening a social gap and producing poverty in this country, which
as a result worsened a contradiction between developed nations' economy and
aggravated peoples' living.
What we particularly want to stress is a terrible destruction of the employment
rules. At present, one out of three people are hired as part-timer or nonregular
employees, while one of of two young people are working under a very unstable
This applies to Toyota as well. As of November 2005, appoximately 13,000
people, which accounts for 40% of the total workforce of Toyota, are employed as
temporarily or with a fixed term, though their work is no different from the work
done by regular employees. Only with the reason that their status is not
full-time, their wage is discounted down to half of full-timers' while they are
placed under constant fears that they can be discharged anytime from the
Are we allowed to continue ignoring such terrible situations as a labor union?
The youths need a stable work and workplace as well as trouble-free living
conditions. It is a mission of the union to provide a safe social environment
where young generations can join hands in marriage and raise kids without any
fear or worry. Creating such environment may cope with emerging social issues
such as declining number of births and aging of the society. The labor movement
today is truly required to have a viewpoint of building a nation.