Japanese Workers At U.S. Military Bases Go On Strike

Wednesday, November 21st 2007, 7:55 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ More than 16,000 Japanese workers at U.S. military bases in Japan went on strike Wednesday, protesting Tokyo's plan to cut their benefits as it tightens its budget supporting the 50,000 U.S. troops here.

A U.S. military official said the strike was not affecting the bases' critical operations.

Japan covers some of the costs for the U.S. bases in the country under an agreement with Washington, with a budget of billions of dollars a year _ more than any other host country.

About 16,000 union members launched the strike because the Japanese government proposed cutting benefits last month, said Tsuneo Teruya, secretary-general of All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union. Some non-union workers also took part, Teruya said, without giving the number.

It was the first nationwide strike at U.S. bases in Japan since 1991, Teruya said.

The budget cuts being reviewed include a monthly benefit worth 10 percent of each worker's salary and a special benefit of up to $54 a month, depending on the worker's fluency in English.

The one-day strike was intended to demonstrate ``a consensus among base workers that we cannot accept one-sided, disadvantageous changes to our working conditions,'' said a written statement from the union's chairman, Kazuo Yamakawa.

Most of the strikers work in restaurants on the bases, or do cleaning and housing maintenance jobs, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported.

``Our critical operations are proceeding as normal,'' said Master. Sgt. Terrence Teck of the U.S. Forces in Japan.

The U.S. military here supports Japanese employee's ``peaceful exercise of their legal rights,'' he said.

A Japanese Defense Ministry official said the strike would affect the bases' operations somewhat, but she declined to immediately comment on the scale of the impact.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing policy, said she could not comment on any possible effect the strike might have on U.S.-Japan relations.

Japan's government is under pressure to keep its defense spending down, while still supporting the U.S. troop presence and fortifying its own military.

Japan allocated $1.98 billion as the budget for U.S. bases for the fiscal year 2007, which ends in March 2008.