Local activities of Japanese OSHCs
by KAWAMOTO Hiroyuki
The Kanagawa Occupational Safety and Health Center (KOSHC) is a non governmental organization, based in Kanagawa Prefecture (adjourning the Tokyo metropolis), which addresses workers' health problems and has close relations with local labor unions, medical facilities, lawyers and victims. In the early 1970s local workers including petroleum workers suffering from lead poisoning, shipyard workers facing increasingly serious injuries in their workplaces, and dock workers engaged in heavy labor, began a series of campaigns to ensure their right to work safely. They were aided by labor problem-conscious experts in health care and law. These joint activities led to an awareness of the need for an organization to coordinate workers lacking sufficient knowledge about medical and legal matters, and professionals who had no adequate insight into actual labor situations. It was in such a context that the KOSHC was founded.
Supporting the victims
The official industrial injuries compensation scheme provides victims with free medical care and compensation for lost wages up to a certain level. In addition the Labor Standards Law prohibits the dismissal of victims who are undergoing medical treatment, or are receiving compensation. However, these inherent rights of workers--prescribed by law--are not always protected in practice because of a lack of insight on the part of medical doctors into the labor-relatedness of the illnesses, and overt or covert harassment by employers. Even the karoshi victims--publicized worldwide as a symbol of the severe overwork inflicted on Japanese workers--are rarely certified as eligible for compensation. There were only 76 certified victims in fiscal 1995.
The KOSHC has been supporting pneumoconiosis victims, people with asbestos-related lung cancers, people injured by repeated straining, subcontracting workers polluted by radiation in nuclear power plants, injured foreign workers and female workers. To secure compensation for these victims--most of whom are unorganized--we urge local Labor Standards Offices (LSOs) to make fair and full investigations, and urge employers to help victims return to work, or pay for extra compensation. We also devote our energy to areas like education and consciousness-raising campaigns.
Recently we have been tackling the problem of active and retired shipyard workers who have asbestosis or asbestos-related lung cancer from many years of handling asbestos insulation. We advertised our pneumoconiosis campaign on a half page of a local newspaper. More than 100 inquiries from potential victims were received. This campaign revealed that a lot of victims with this common occupational disease have been left without even the minimal officially prescribed compensation.
Support for foreign workers
Our activities are supported by medical facilities run by workers cooperatives. Minatomachi Medical Center, one of these facilities, set up a cooperative scheme for medical fee reimbursement for foreign workers in 1990. This project is aimed at supporting foreign workers who are refused admission to public medical insurance schemes, under the pretext of irregular residence status. It's existence questions those Japanese medical institutions which exclude foreign citizens from medical care.
Information on the KOSHC
We have four permanent staff and a membership of 600. We issue a monthly newsletter in Japanese with a circulation of about 1000.
If you find our activities interesting and wish to learn more, please contact us through the JOSHRC, our umbrella organization. We promise to respond promptly to your request.
Our address is:
505, 20-9 Toyooka-cho, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 230
(Fax is better since all the staff cannot speak English very well.)
JOSHRC NEWSLETTER No.11 (Sep, 1997)
INTRODUCTION <- -> INDEX
Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center (JOSHRC)
Z Bldg. 5F, 7-10-1 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0071, Japan