Foreigners rally over job security

Hundreds of foreign and Japanese people staged a rally Sunday in Tokyo demanding better working conditions and employment benefits for foreign residents.

At the annual “March in March” event at Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward, Louis Carlet, deputy general secretary of the National Union of General Workers Tokyo Nambu, said foreign workers have a great need for job security and health care.

“It’s difficult to be a foreigner in any country. But it’s much more difficult when you don’t have job security, when you don’t have health care,” said Carlet, whose union jointly hosted the event with other groups lobbying for improved labor conditions.

One of the biggest problems is that most foreigners are being employed as nonregular workers, and more and more Japanese are being used the same way, he said.

Participants at the rally included people from many different ethnic backgrounds as well as various unions. Organizers said around 400 people took part.

Romsun Pramudito from Indonesia, who chairs the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Indonesia Youth Association, said more job security should be given to foreigner workers.

“We are working very hard and really contributing to the country,” he said, adding he hopes foreigners receive better treatment. He also said foreigners and Japanese should collaborate to find a solution.

Buddhika Weerasinghe, a Fukui-based freelance photojournalist from Sri Lanka, came to the event because he is interested in the problems foreign workers face in Japan.

Weerasinghe said he has heard from foreign workers in the city of Fukui — many of them Chinese working in garment factories — that some received salary cuts without explanation and even experienced physical harassment. “I feel foreigners working in Japan are facing a lot of problems.”

While hopeful that improvement will accompany the change in government last September, little progress has been made, Carlet said.

“We want the new government to take this issue very seriously and make serious change,” he said.

The event also featured a live music by musicians from various countries, including Senegalese drum sessions and Ainu dancing from Hokkaido.

A march planned after the gathering, however, was called off because of the chilly rain, organizers said.