Angry and frustrated, nearly 300 foreign residents of Japan rallied in the streets of central Tokyo Sunday to demand equal rights and job security. At the fourth annual demonstration, workers from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas spoke about unfair treatment they received on the job in Japan. South Korea’s song for democracy, “Great China” and “Venceremos” echoed in a park in the trendy Tokyo district of Shibuya, where demonstrators gathered before they took to the streets.
“We must take matters in our own hands and raise awareness of the problems foreign workers face in Japan,” said Satoshi Murayama of the Kanagawa City Union, whose members come mostly from Latin America.
While Japan has accepted an increasing number of foreign workers, many employment problems have been reported.
“In Japan, companies hire foreign workers as cheap labour, and that has to stop,” Zentoitsu unionist Ippei Torii said. Torii has received many phone calls from trainees who were brought from China to work at farms or factories in the outskirts of Tokyo for 300 yen (2.9 dollars) to 500 yen an hour.
Zentoitsu has 2,600 of its total 3,600 members from outside of Japan.
Ali Nusrat from Pakistan is currently asking his company to pay worker’s compensation for burns on his hands. He was working at a bread-making company after he retired from a factory filling lunch boxes for five years for 750 yen per hour.
Tony Dolan said he was on strike for two weeks demanding social security benefits from a company where he worked for 12 years as a full-time teacher. The US citizen holds a permanent visa and has lived in Japan for 13 years.
Last year, Japan’s largest English school went bankrupt and hundreds of teachers, mostly from Australia, were laid off.
A Japanese onlooker agreed with the foreign workers’ demand for equal rights because he said they are forced to bear worse working conditions than most Japanese people.
“Some Japanese people try to ignore the problems faced by foreign residents, but we should all know about the issue and think about it,” he said.