From WEEKLY MDS No.1043, July 18, 2008 issue

"Cut Military Fund! Eliminate Poverty!" Called by July 7 One-Day Action

Anger of the Offended Corners Authorities

A "Cut the Funds for Arms! Eliminate Poverty!" one-day action rolled out on July 7 in the metropolitan Tokyo. Against war policies and attacks on living conditions of workers and people at large by global capitalism, protesters carried out a series of appeal actions all day toward the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Ministry of Defense and other government institutions.

Starting with appeal to lawmakers

In the morning, citizen groups working for solidarity with IFC (Iraq Freedom Congress) and signature campaigns for minimum 1,200-yen hourly wage and termination of the later elderly health care plan visited Diet members including Upper House lawmakers FUKUSHIMA Mizuho, YAMAUCHI Tokushin and KAWADA Ryuhei. At respective offices, the groups appealed to the legislators to push the move toward radical re-examination of the Worker Dispatch Law and to encourage participation in the July 30 welcome rally for Iraq's Anti Oil Law Front Chairperson Subhi Al-Badri.

During lunchtime for the business area, YOSHIOKA Tsutomu struggling against the disguised contracting and unfair dismissal led a protest action at the Nippon Keidanren. After the action, Yoshioka and the supporters also visited the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, demanding enhanced administrative guidance on corporations in order to have them assume responsibility for employment.

Concurrently, protest and appeal actions were rolled out at oil companies including Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., a Royal Dutch/Shell Group company in Japan, and a number of embassies, the latter in an effort to realize a ban-uranium-weapons convention.

From the youth to the elderly

The characteristic of the One-Day Action is that the offended parties stood up shoulder to shoulder, from the youth to the elderly, in venting anger against deteriorating living conditions and speaking out, "Enough is enough! Cut the funds for arms! Eliminate poverty!"

In the afternoon, at 5:00, a group of thirty students/elder citizens gathered in front of the Health Ministry building with banners carrying "Cut the funds for arms! Eliminate poverty!" and "Stop disguised contracting!" chanting, "Work place for the challenged" and "For the later elderly health care system, the only solution is termination."

Prior to this rally, an appeal action to the Health Ministry took place to which the Health Insurance Bureau personnel responded. Countering the Ministry's explanation, "The Ministry has introduced the system for the later elderly in order to eliminate gaps of premiums among different localities, not to cut down medical expenditures," action participants unraveled the reality of inflating insurance premiums and said, "It was a lie that the elderly health care premium would be pulled down to a level lower than the national health insurance premium. You should admit that your prospect was wrong." The officials could not give any counterargument but only said, "We are reexamining the system right now from a viewpoint of lower-income segments." Again, the protesters criticized by pointing out, "A relief plan only targeting at 150,000 subscribers could never provide a real solution," to which the officials lost words.

Silent on illegality of withholding

Concerning the issue of withholding insurance premiums from pension annuities, their answer was, "That procedure has been introduced to save trouble of bank transfer for premium payment and also labor on the part of public services." Questioned, "What kind of a welfare system to keep back from a pension annuity of 180,000 yen (US$1,700)? Show the ground for setting the boundary at 180,000 yen," they remarked, "It is simply based on the current practice for the nursing care insurance premium. We don't know what's behind the 180,000-yen threshold." They remained silent when the illegality of the withholding itself was pointed. OKAMURA Takako representing the Citizens for Terminating Later Elderly Health Care Plan advised a young official saying, "Please study Article 25 of the Constitution of Japan. The viewpoint should be the people's right to live."

Concerning the fact that a bill to scrap the later elderly health insurance program cleared the House of Councilors, the bureau representative could not help but observe, "I understand that reflects the voices of the people at large."

Immunity from scholarship repayment demanded

Furthermore, the group visited the Japan Student Services Organization to request that its scholarship program be reviewed. To the manager of the Public Affairs Department who received the group, an offended party member NAHA Kazuko said, "I am supporting my mother and sister. We could not survive if about 20,000 yen (US$185) were to be deducted from my monthly pay of about 180,000 yen, which is as humble as that for my status as a permanent employee. I request immunity from repayment." The Manager replied, "There is no immunity system in place in fact, but we can grant a five-year grace in some cases, which is applicable to Naha's case as the annual income for the three-member household does not exceed three million yen (US$28,000)."

The applicable reasons for "Application for Grace of Scholarship Repayment" include a disaster, reception of welfare payment, injury/sickness of a family member, but there is no reference income amount stated. Naha appealed, "There are people around me also having difficulty to repay. The reference amount must be explicitly cited and the system of repayment grace must be publicized more." While presenting a delinquency survey result, the Manager said, "The reasons for arrearages include unemployment and low wages, clearly showing the state of the working poor." Against this observation of her own, however, the Manager eventually dared to counter, saying, "A study meeting of well-informed persons has formulated a policy proposal including legal action to be taken against persons with delinquency no less than nine months. Delayed repayment could undermine resources of scholarship for your junior fellows." She went on to say, "People must borrow money with a repayment plan," sounding like a catch copy of a consumer credit company.

Participants who joined the action requested, "The scholarship program is a problem if it expects repayment from a person like Naha whose living is under that of welfare beneficiaries. There should be a change of the system to respond to the needs of the time of the working poor."

Weekly MDS