Jichiroren’s Foundation, Brief History, and Membership
1. Jichiroren Thus Born
In the 1980s, the national government and business circles were fiercely pushing the so-called ad hoc commission’s administrative reforms sacrificing the people and workers. Sohyo of that time, one of the largest national trade union centres, and Jichiro, the largest industrial union of local government workers, yielded to a campaign based on anti-communism, labor-capital cooperation, and backing the regime, for supporting and promoting this move. They were finally amalgamated into later founded Rengo, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation.
Under these circumstances, the expectations for “such proper labour movement that struggles for workers and people’s interests” were growing, and much active effort for it was made. On March 17, 1989, democratic local government workers overcame frantic disunity and disintegration interventions based on anti-communism, and established Jichiroren exercising their right to establish and join the trade union of their own choosing.
Upholding the basic principles of trade unions: independence from capital, independence from political parties and united action on agreed demands, Jichiroren decided to take responsibility for demands of all local government workers, as well as for movements toward democratic change of local administration and finance. From this standing point, Jichiroren got involved in forming Zenroren, fighting national centre of trade unions. The foundation of a new nationwide organization of local government workers played a great role in local government workers’ movements afterwards.
2. Jichiroren’s Proactive and Creative Efforts
Jichiroren has conducted various campaigns, linking local government workers’ struggles for defending their own life and rights with their efforts for making democratic change of the administration and finance of local governments’, as a duty of ‘servants for the whole community’. Encouraging co-league workers to unite at work, and residents at community, the members of Jichiroren have made proactive and creative efforts for realizing their demands, and gained the outcomes as well as lessons from there.
In 1994, Jichiroren has adopted four slogans:
“the Constitution in every aspect of Life and at Work”, “Change Local Government, from a Servant of Big Companies to a Champion of our Life”, “Cleanness, Justice, Democracy to Local Government”, and “A Proud Local Government for workers to work”.
Jichiroren has actively announced several positive policies and proposals:
‘Declaration of Rights of Municipal Workers, a Draft’ in August 1996, ‘a Draft Charter of Local Self-Government’, in March 1997—the fruit of collaboration with citizens’ organizations, and ‘Demands and Proposals for a more democratic system of local taxes and finance, a draft’, ‘For the eradication of misappropriation of public fund at local government’, ‘Appeal to local government to take urgent measures for job and the unemployed’, ‘For advancing our efforts to create a new scheme to improve pay and conditions for temporary and part-time staff at local government, and to have them work with job satisfaction’, ‘Jichiroren’s model ordinance for freedom of information, a draft’.
Jichiroren has made a great collaborative effort with citizens for ‘defending the Constitution and the Local Self-Government Act, and the life of residents’, which developed into a ‘national research conference on local self-government’ jointly hosted by 21 nationwide organizations. The cooperation with relevant persons to local government and joint actions of building such progressive and democratic local governments that give priority to local residents are gaining momentum.
At the 25th annual convention in 2003, Jichiroren adopted the third medium-term program for strengthening the organization, which aimed at a Jichiroren for public service workers to unite across different patterns of employment. Whether they work on a basis of full- or part-time, at public or private sector, we decided to unionize all kinds of workers providing public services and to conduct struggles for them. We affirmed that only this course of actions leads us to achieve progress of local government workers’ new movement.
Jichiroren adopted the following policies at the central committee meeting in January 2005, after proposed at the 26th annual convention in August 2004;
“Declaration of Rights of Municipal Workers, a Draft” and “a Draft Charter of Local Self-Government”, as an action guideline for waging a large-scale struggle to not allowing the wrong change of the Constitution, and for realizing ‘Another World and Japan’ against globalization and neoliberal reform led by large multinational companies, by making use of the Constitution.
“Jichiroren’s Goals and Proposals toward the beginning of Twenty-first century with the Constitution and Local Self-Government made the best use of－‘We want Such a Community, Such a Country’”( a draft of framework), as a counter-measure based on the basic principles of the Constitution and the Local Self-Government, for stopping the deterioration of the Constitution.
At the 28th annual convention in 2006, Jichiroren initiated a campaign, “Look at them again, Ask them again: Job and Residents’ Safety and Security”. The move came from our standpoint: local government workers can have future, only by turning to residents’ life and feeling with pride and courage. In those days, a spate of fatal accidents and events occurred, such as unattended deaths of local residents with their application of public assistance declined, a school girl found drowned at a municipal pool. Vulnerable members of our society, such as children, the aged and disabled people, were killed in the field of local government with responsibilities for protecting the livelihood and lives of residents. By these facts, local government workers were made to be left in a position of perpetrators, and some were discouraged, saying that they were unable to have any vision of working at the public sector.
At the 31st annual convention in 2009, with local government workers made to be a servant of misgovernment under pressure from the national government and business circles-led neoliberal reforms, Jichiroren determined a “dialogue and proposal campaign aiming for a possible community for everyone to remain living without fears”. This campaign was designated as the following actions such as;
Calling for local authorities to allocate budgets for supporting residents’ life as well as to arrange proper personnel for this, through workers’ reviews on their job and the actual situation of workplace,
Conducting a community survey in interviewing people at the door so as to learn, at first-hand, of what happens to the life of residents.
Following the July Upper House election which resulted in the majority of the forces favoring constitutional revision in both Houses, the move toward changing and reinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution is gathering force. Just after the election, Jichiroren, at the 35th annual convention in August 2013, confirmed “To champion residents’ life by making good use of the Constitution at the local community“ as a ‘Special Task’ of Jichiroren, and decided to launch a three-year campaign for making a comprehensive policy about the following issues, such as; how to promote a broad-ranging dialogue and cooperation based on the Constitution, considering every local government; how to advance joint actions on individual demand; how local government should act its part.
Jichiroren is, now, making constant efforts, in a basic way of its own;
1) At work, for reviewing job and administration and finance of local government, based on dialogue and consensus-building at every workplace, and for helping public service related workers taking back pride and rights, with union members and workers acting the leading part of activities,
2) In community, for defending the life and human rights of local residents in turning to the reality of their livelihood through dialogue with them, with residents acting the leading part of activities.
3. Jichiroren’s Membership
Jichiroren started with a membership of 200,000 in 1994, and increased it to the highest 256,000 in 1996 (from the 1996 basic survey on trade union of Health, Welfare, and Labour Ministry). Due to the government’s continuous policy of not filling vacancies even after workers retired and reduction of the fixed number of staff, current membership is lower 163,000, belonging to 673 local unions (from the 2013 basic survey). As one of the largest industrial unions of as well as underpinning of Zenroren, Jichiroren has acted a large part in various movements at the national, regional and local level, since it started.
There are a recently increasing number of non-regular workers at the public sector as well, such as: temporary, part-time, temporary agency workers and individual contractors, and those working in dependent agencies of local government which are subject to outsourcing on ‘designated administrator system’. Jichiroren encourages them to organize themselves into unions and join Jichiroren, linking with its actions of demanding that local authorities fulfill their public responsibility, and that they do not outsource work for providing public services any more. Thus, the membership of non-regular workers for public service and related workers has grown to 26,000, taking account for more than 15 percent of the whole membership of Jichiroren.
Jichiroren is, now, making every effort for advancing its struggles, together with affiliates in all 47 prefectures, including the members of recently founded ‘public sector general unions’ in the prefectures where there had been no local union of Jichiroren until then.