JIN-512 -- Exploding manufacturing plants

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends in Japan.
Issue No. 512 Tuesday July 14, 2009, Tokyo

You really have to hand it to the French - no single country does
dramatic industrial disputes like them. Usually it’s farmers doing
things like dumping manure in front of government buildings. Usually
it gives sub-editors the chance to think up clever headlines like “French
farmers DUMP on MacDonalds” (get it?) But it seems in a post-Lehman
world, weapons like manure are no longer effective. That’s why workers
at a French car parts supplier have instead rigged their plant with gas
canisters and are threatening to blow up the plant. The employees of
engine parts maker New Fabris are demanding that the supplier’s two
biggest clients Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen pay 30,000 pounds
to each of the 366 workers facing unemployment.

This dispute follows a wave of boss-nappings earlier in the year.
While barricading your boss is nothing new in France (in fact it could
be seen as a national past-time), increased tensions have meant more
and more bosses are finding themselves locked up by angry workers.
It’s not always so bad, not bad if you’re the boss of Moet and Chandon
and you are stuck in your office with a fridge of company’s famous
champagne, as happened in 1993. This Financial Times article
gives a good background on the broader issue.

In Japan, as observers, we’re sometimes insulated from the tensions
that such a major downturn brings. Unemployment figures are rising
and just from anecdotal evidence, it seems that a lot of non-permanent
workers are landing less and less work. One 26-year-old construction
worker I talked to said he was down to about two shifts a week. At an
average of about 8000 yen a day that doesn’t leave a lot of money for
rent and bills and other expenses.

Apparently the number of homeless has been steadily declining since
the mid 90s but I have a feeling that statistics will prove that there
has been an increase since September last year. Certainly there were
mass layoffs in Nagoya, home of manufacturers including Toyota.

The French workers certainly know how to bring attention to
themselves. I guess that threatening to blow up your production plant
is a surefire way to get people’s attention…

Renault and Peugeot have both said that they will not give into the
demands of the workers. Meanwhile Industry Minister Christian Estrosi
offered to meet with workers to discuss the situation but later
withdrew his invitation saying that while the threat to blow up the
plant remained, there would be no negotiation.

There has been some dispute as to whether the threat is real or not
but the hardliner unionists insist that they will not back down.

But, whether or not the threat is an empty one, it’s illustrative of
the continuing fallout that is occurring in the manufacturing
industries across the globe. When the French are unhappy, you know
about it. Of course Japan is no stranger to violent industrial disputes,
but the days of protestors and police clashing over picket lines ended
in the mid-70s. I would be surprised if we saw any dung flinging or
boss-napping in Japan but no doubt, the feeling among workers is
somewhat similar. While we are starting to see the sentiment of the
manufacturers themselves improve, the lay-offs will continue for
sometime and the longer the grind, the more stress that will be placed
on society and in the minute - the family.

Michael Condon

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For the first time, serial entrepreneur Terrie Lloyd brings
his extremely popular business seminars to Okayama and to Kobe.
The Okayama seminar, entitled 'Innovative Business Leaders
Seminar', will be held on Saturday July 25 at the Kurashiki
Chamber of Commerce.

On Sunday July 26, Terrie will hold his Enrepreneurs Handbook
Seminar at the Kobe International House.
From JR Sannomiya Station it's just a short 5 min walk
down Flower Road.

For registration send mail to seminar@japaninc.com
For more information please go to:


------------------- ICA Event - July 30 -------------------

Event: Summer Networking Party! Open to all

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time: 19:00 - 21:00 Open Bar and Finger Food Included
Cost: 1,000 yen (members), 2,500 yen (non-members)
Open to all - venue is Zest Iikura


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Key Presenter: Terrie Lloyd CEO Linc Media/Japan Inc Holdings
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Time: 3pm - 6pm
Free registration. For more information or to register visit: