The UA Zensen Union of Japan launched the Campaign Against Unreasonable Complaints in 2017. At first, the campaign focused on malicious complaints and unreasonable demands by customers fueled by the “customer is always right” culture. These complaints and demands took various forms, including customers scolding workers for hours and forcing them to apologize repeatedly. In addition to addressing this issue, the campaign has expanded to cover other forms of violence, harassment and abuse of commerce workers and has already secured better protection for Japanese commerce workers.
The first legislation addressing violence at work
In April 2022, the Akita Prefecture Basic Ordinance for Creating a Diverse Society came into force. The ordinance is supported by the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Commerce, Food and General Services Workers’ Unions (UA Zensen). It strictly prohibits discrimination and any activity that violates the rights and interests of another person based on, but not limited to, race, belief, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, social status, family origin, occupation, age, physical and/or mental disability, medical history or for any other reason.
The full text of the Akita Ordinance is available here.
Guidelines on preventive measures
Guidelines issued by the Akita Prefecture were the first comprehensive preventive measures to tackle harassment faced by commerce workers in Japan. The guidelines:
● Identified customer harassment as a form of discrimination and a threat to the creation of a diverse society.
● Listed forms of customer harassment, including being forced to kneel to apologize; unreasonable demands and complaints; loud, threatening and abusive language; offensive remarks about a worker’s character and vulgar conversation.
● Identified education as a countermeasure against customer harassment and introduced customer education at schools and community education through a variety of venues and media.
● Mandated that local government work with relevant organizations, including unions, to disseminate information, produce manuals for retailers addressing the issue, hold seminars and raise awareness to stop third-party violence and harassment in commerce.
The Akita Prefecture Basic Ordinance and resulting guidelines blazed a trail to secure similar legislation, guidelines and concrete actions in other regions across Japan. UA Zensen continues to campaign for adoption of nationwide legislation to tackle customer violence and harassment.
Nationwide guidelines on measures to combat customer harassment
In 2022, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare released guidelines on measures to combat customer harassment and distributed them to companies in the sector. The guidelines define customer harassment, explain different forms it can take and show how prevalent it is in light of the survey conducted by the Ministry itself. The guidelines list eight key actions companies should take to build a framework for countermeasures against customer harassment and outline practical preventive measures.
The guidelines are available here.