Wage row erupts between strawberry farms, sacked Chinese apprentices

A dispute has erupted between a group of Chinese apprentices and strawberry farms in Japan after one farm sacked a group of students and tried to force them to leave the country.A total of 15 apprentices have fled from the farm operators and are demanding a total of about 52.25 million yen in unpaid wages for the past three years.Sources close to the case said that the 15 male apprentices, from China’s Shandong and Heilongjiang provinces, came to Japan in the spring of 2005 as farm trainees. After one year of training, they got work at seven strawberry farms and expected to continue their jobs until this spring.

However, in December last year the Choboen strawberry farm in Tsuga informed five of the apprentices that they were being dismissed due to a poor harvest. The farm had a guard accompany them and put them on a bus to Narita Airport and tried to make them return to China, which caused a scuffle to break out.

The five apprentices contacted the Tokyo-based Zentoitsu Workers Union [an ally of NUGW Tokyo Nambu], which supports foreign trainees and skilled apprentices, and 10 foreign workers from six other farms joined up with them afterwards.