Workers protest massive wave of job cuts

Holding a banner reading, “Destruction of employment,” Japanese workers shout slogans during a protest rally against job cuts by top Japanese companies in front of the headquarters of Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s largest business federation, in Tokyo Tuesday, Dec . 16, 2008. About 200 protesters accused Japanese corporate leaders of sacrificing their jobs to protect their profits amid the global slowdown. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Holding a banner reading, “Destruction of employment,” Japanese workers shout slogans during a protest rally against job cuts by top Japanese companies in front of the headquarters of Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s largest business federation, in Tokyo Tuesday, Dec . 16, 2008. About 200 protesters accused Japanese corporate leaders of sacrificing their jobs to protect their profits amid the global slowdown. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

A group of Japanese women workers participate in a protest rally against job cuts by top Japanese companies with banners and placards in front of the headquarters of Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s largest business federation, in Tokyo Tuesday, Dec . 16, 2008. About 200 protesters accused Japanese corporate leaders of sacrificing their jobs to protect their profits amid the global slowdown. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

TOKYO

Hundreds of unionized workers rallied in Tokyo on Tuesday to protest massive job cuts, accusing the country’s biggest companies of sacrificing jobs to protect profits.

The global financial crisis has forced some of Japan’s corporate giants to take drastic measures including job cuts, suspending production, postponing projects and closing factories. Sony Corp., Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. are among the major employers to trim thousands of workers from their payrolls.

About 200 protesters waved banners and shouted slogans through loudspeakers outside the headquarters of the Nippon Keidanren — Japan’s largest business lobby group — in Tokyo’s main business district.

“Toyota, stop cutting seasonal workers! We workers are not disposable!” they chanted. “Sony, stop massive firing!”

Most of the job cuts have targeted temporary contract workers, but lately they have included full-time salaried workers.

Speakers at the protest said some newly unemployed contract workers also lost their company-owned housing, leaving them jobless and homeless.

“We do not accept job cuts in the name of the economic crisis,” said Kazuko Furuta, a representative of New Japan Women’s Association, a women’s rights group that organized the rally with dozens of labor unions. “Shame on the Japanese companies that dump their workers like objects.”

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai told reporters Tuesday that the government was doing its “utmost to support small businesses and ensure job security.”

Fujio Mitarai, head of Keidanren and also chairman of Canon Inc., said the influential lobby “will cooperate with the government” to implement job security measures.

Japanese exporters have been hit hard by slowing consumer demand from abroad and the yen’s appreciation, which erodes their overseas earnings.

Sony announced plans to slash 8,000 jobs around the world — about 5 percent of its work force — and lowered its full-year earnings projection 59 percent from the previous year.

Major automakers including Toyota and Nissan have terminated contracts with thousands of seasonal workers at their factories and parts makers.

Citing their own tally, union members say more than 18,800 people, mostly contract workers, have lost their jobs in recent months.

The government last week announced a 23 trillion yen ($256 billion) stimulus package to shore up the economy, including measures to encourage employment.

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Renault workers in Spain protest work reduction plan

December 13 2008

MADRID

Thousands of Renault workers braved heavy rain to march through the central Spanish city of Valladolid Saturday to protest a work reduction plan by the French automaker at its four plants in the country.

Renault management in Spain on December 3 proposed the 2009 cuts at its two factories in Valladolid, one in the nearby town of Palencia and another in the southern city of Sevilla.

Workers at one of the Valladolid plants are also waiting for Renault to assign it a new vehicle for production that would ensure its survival.

The protesters, who numbered 25,000 according to unions and 16,000 according to police, marched through the city in driving rain before a statement was read out calling on Renault to guarantee staff levels, Spanish media said.

“If this isn’t resolved, war, war and war,” the protesters chanted.

Renault employs around 11,000 people in Spain, Europe’s third-largest automaker, of whom 9,800 work in its four factories.

The company proposed a 60-day work reduction plan at one Valladolid plant and a 30-day cut at the other three factories.

The company blamed “the strong and continued fall in European markets, the main destinations of Renault Spain products” for its decision.

The auto manufacturing sector accounts for just under 10 percent of Spain’s economic output and 15 percent of exports.

Several large automakers in the country have already taken measures to cut their workforce, such as Japan’s Nissan and US group Ford.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero late last month announced an 800-million-euro cash injection for the country’s auto sector, part of an 11-billion-euro (14.3-billion-dollar) stimulus package to help the country cope with the global financial crisis.

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