Cover photo: Akihiko Matsuura, President of UA ZENSEN presiding over rally against harassment from customers
On 3rd December 2020, UA ZENSEN, the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Commerce, Food and General Services Workers’ Unions, held a rally on unreasonable complaints, calling for further need for legislation and public education. The landmark event was participated by 200 participants including over 80 Diet members.
During the pandemic, workers in the commerce and service sectors have been committing to work as essential workers even when they are facing the risk of infection to themselves and their families. A survey conducted by UA ZENSEN found out that one in five were harassed by customers for COVID-19 related reasons at the store.
The results revealed that more than 40% of the companies covered in the survey had no measures in place to protect workers against harassment from customers. An officer from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare expressed at the rally that the Ministry would allocate a budget of 17 Million Japanese Yen (approx. US$160,000) in FY2021 to develop specific guidelines and measures to prevent harassment by customers and to raise awareness in companies on the issue.
Abusive behaviors that are excessive may be punished with a sentence of up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of 500,000 JPY (US$ 4,820) under the existing criminal code. However, the existing protection to workers has not been good enough, as it is often difficult to confirm the guilt of a person who committed the offenses and companies are not obliged to act on the complaints.
UA ZENSEN’s efforts over the past years had saw a successful campaign developed. The campaign was eventually greatly aided through initiatives like posters on shopping rules produced by 3 Ministries. UA ZENSEN will continue its activities focusing on education outreach to employees in companies on understanding what are unreasonable complaints, raising awareness of consumers, and promoting legislation to eliminate abusive behavior from customers.
UNI Apro Regional Secretary, Rajendra Acharya, welcomed the positive development in Japan. He said, “I congratulate UA ZENSEN for their impressive efforts and I am optimistic that there would be better protection for commerce workers against excessive harassment from customers even after the COVID-19 pandemic. UA ZENSEN’s campaign definitely inspire us at UNI Apro and would provide a model for affiliates to emulate.”