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Zenroren News - December 11, 2020

Cut consumption tax and redirect military expenditures to a far-reaching improvement of COVID-19 measures now

The Organizing committee of the People’s Great Movement for “Redirecting Military Expenditures to Improve Livelihood, Welfare Programs and Education” on December 11 made representations to the Finance Ministry for compilation of a budget to implement a 12-point plan to defend people’s safety and livelihoods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Zenroren President Obata Masako and representatives of six other organizations --the National Federation of Traders' and Producers' Association; the Japan Family Farmers Movement; the New Japan Women’s Association; the All-Japan Federation of Organizations for the Protection of Life and Health; the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions; and the Democratic Youth League of Japan -- took part in the petition. Two Japanese Communist Party members of the Diet, House of Councilors member Daimon Mikishi and House of Representatives member Shimizu Tadashi, attended the meeting.

On behalf of the delegation, Zenroren President Obata handed the letter of request to Finance Minister Aso Taro and explained the request. Representatives of other organizations also made their requests in line with the 12-point plan listed below.

Obata said: “Amid a surge in the coronavirus infections and with the healthcare system in a state of near-collapse, we request the government to take measures to increase and improve safe and secure medical services and public healthcare systems, and to provide uninterrupted support to healthcare workers. This can be a strong message the government can send.” She also said, “If the nation is to keep the economy moving, it’s necessary to cut the consumption tax. The worsening employment situation should be dealt with by extending employment adjustment subsidies to support companies that continue to keep employees on their payroll until the pandemic subsides and by establishing a national minimum wage system. She requested a government budget geared to protect people’s safety and livelihoods.

Below is an excerpt from Obata’s remarks:

I am Obata Masako from the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren). Allow me to explain our request for two basic measures plus one on behalf of the trade unions.

The first point concerns the spread of coronavirus infections. Unfortunately, more than 2,000 new cases are reported every day, and the healthcare system is on the verge of collapse in Osaka and Hokkaido prefectures, giving rise to a feeling of insecurity among people. Despite the fact that most frontline healthcare professionals are forced to work excessively long hours in highly strained conditions, many of them are to get bonus cuts and are forced to endure the worsening working conditions due to worsening financial conditions of hospitals and clinics. We would like to ask the government to take steps to increase and improve safe and secure health care systems and public health systems while providing uninterrupted support to the healthcare workers and care workers. I believe that such efforts can be a strong message the government can send to express the determination to defend people’s safety and livelihoods.

The second point is about the way to keep the economy moving amid the pandemic to protect people’s livelihoods. The need is to help people spend money. According to the government’s monthly labor survey, real wages from March through October were down from a year earlier. The Internal Affairs Ministry’s “household budget survey” shows household spending continued to fall from October 2019 through September this year except January. Clearly the consumption tax increase in October last year from 8 percent to 10 percent and the pandemic have led to a plunge in personal spending. In order to recover from the weak consumer spending, it is necessary to cut the consumption tax (value-added tax) - an emergency measure that has been taken in more than 30 countries.

The third point is the need for the government to take measures to maintain the employment and wages that protect the safety and livelihoods of the people, which is essential for keeping the economy moving. As everyone knows, the employment situation is worsening towards the end of the year amid the pandemic. The unemployment rate in October was 3.1 percent. As many as 2.15 million people are left without jobs. The number of contingent workers was 850,000 fewer than a year earlier. In addition, 1.43 million people are forced to suspend business. That’s up 150,000 from a year earlier. In order to prevent further mass dismissals and the unilateral termination of work contracts from occurring, we request the government to extend beyond February employment adjustment subsidies to support companies that continue to keep employees on their payroll without lowering their levels until the pandemic subsides. We also request the government to make efforts to establish the national uniform minimum wage system to enable everyone to maintain their living standards by receiving living wages.
In sum, we want the government to compile a government that redirects the military expenditures to help improve people’s livelihoods, welfare programs and education. This is the basic position from which other representatives here will explain their requests.

Below is the 12-point request

(1) End the “sympathy budget” for the stationing of US military forces in Japan, carry out a major cut in the over 5.4 trillion-yen military budget to redirect the money to people-first measures, including disaster prevention, social services, and education.

(2) Cut the consumption tax rate to 5 percent (from the present 10 percent) as a measure giving people hope for the future in the face of an unprecedented crisis caused by a surge in the coronavirus pandemic; provide consumption tax exemption as a coronavirus exception to small- and medium-sized businesses for fiscal 2020 and 2021.

(3) Not exercise restraint on increasing funding for social services which are essential for the daily lives of the people so that more money can be used for welfare programs, pension payments, and other social programs, including health care, nursing care, people with disability, and child care.

(4) Increase spending on education to a level comparable to OECD countries, in order to carry out improvement in the educational environment and working conditions at educational institutions, and ensure the development of children; and reduce people’s burden of paying the cost of education.

(5) Unify disaster prevention administrative efforts considering that disasters are on the rise, including the March11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and urban disasters caused by typhoon and heavy rain.

(6) Push ahead with parliamentary deliberation on the bill jointly submitted by opposition parties to end nuclear power generation.

(7) Take budgetary measures to substantially improve systems to resolve the employment/unemployment problem that is being exacerbated.

(8) Reinforce local fiscal positions so that municipalities can carry out measures to promote the wellbeing of the residents.

(9) Change the system of social insurance contribution which forces smaller businesses to shoulder heavier burden to implement a system that will reduce social insurance contribution paid by small- and medium^-sized companies that give workers a pay raise.

(10) Stop the promotion of, and abolish the unconstitutional “MY NUMBER” system, which the government plans to distribute to every citizen in order to collect and control the various personal information, including personal assets, income, and spending, in violation of the privacy rights of the people. Not allow a government “digital agency” to collect and manage citizens’ personal data.

(11) Drastically increase funding for the nation’s agriculture based on policy of increasing support for family farming and raise the nation’s food self-sufficiency in line with the United Nations Decade of Family Farming.”

(12) Stop cutting labor cost for public service personnel, and increase and improve the public sector’s services.




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