Survey conducted on health of postmen
by KAWAMOTO Hiroyuki
A mail workers' union recently conducted a survey, using questionnaires, on the health condition of workers, unionized and non-unionized, in a post office in Yokohama Over 40% of the respondents indicated that they are considerably preoccupied about their working environment, with approximately 30% saying they felt some concern about their working environment. Noise pollution was indicated as giving cause for concern by nearly 70% of the respondents.
The union used these results to urge the management to improve conditions in the workplace. However, despite repeated representations, the management will not work on the problems seriously.
The survey was triggered by a telephone call to our Kanagawa OSHC. The caller, a member of the local union, complained that dust pollution might damage the health of his coworkers, especially asthmatics (a former coworker died of asthma), and that excessive noise prevented communication over the telephone at his workplace. He was anxious to improve his working environment.
To work jointly with him in resolving these problems, we started by visiting his workplace. As he emphasized, different machines, such as cancelers and assorters, were producing noise, and paper dust was flying in the air. The noise, however, was not over the level defined as permitted by the existing regulations, and the paper dust was not included among the types of dust required to be controlled by the relevant regulations. We found that the problems he raised could not be resolved simply by applying existing regulations to his workplace. Another approach had to be developed to improve the working environment. The above mentioned survey and questionnaires were an attempt to examine the workplace in a comprehensive way, as a part of an effort to imporve working conditions.
The labor union distributed questionnaire forms to all the workers in that post office. They were somewhat pessimistic about the response rate of the questionnaire, since that union organized only 10 of the 20 regular workers there. The rest of the regular workers were organized by another labor union, while there were 50 unorganized part-time workers. The result, however, was unexpected: almost all of the workers returned their questionnaire forms, demonstrating in itself their great preoccupation with their working environment.
Worries about privatization
Privatization of the postal services, especially the insurance and money saving sectors, is being discussed in the Government and the Diet. The proponents argue that privatization would improve the efficiency of the services by introducing competition into the market. Competition, however, means that tighter and heavier working conditions will be imposed on the workers. Already, in almost all the post offices, rationalization and mechanization have been introduced to compete with the emerging delivery services, most of whose workers are unorganized and forced to work irregular shifts, and with unlawfully long overtime. The privatization would exacerbate the present situation, and further squeeze postal workers
under the pretext of surviving in an endless race with private delivery companies, who neglect their workers' health.
We believe that the negative implications of the privatization of the postal services will be highlighted by struggles rooted in the employees' working conditions and environment with which our case is concerned. We hope that similar efforts to bring into light workers' repressed grievances will gain ground among other workplaces and unions.
JOSHRC NEWSLETTER No.13 (Jan, 1998)
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