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Japanese Workers Protest Against Government  Labor Policies - 2002-04-11

Thousands of Japanese workers have taken part in a two-day rally in Tokyo organized by the country's largest labor group. They protested against what they view as a lack of government initiatives to create jobs in Japan's moribund economy.

More than 13,000 labor unionists from across Japan demonstrated Wednesday night and Thursday against government policies that, they say, have led to a high jobless rate, now hovering near a record 5.5 percent.

They marched through the glitzy commercial district of Ginza Wednesday evening, in what they called a parade of anger.

About 1,000 workers staged a sit-in in front of parliament Thursday. The union members, many of whom have lost jobs, blame government policies for creating the worst unemployment situation in the country's post-war history.

The workers, all members of Japan's largest labor group, known as Rengo, called for greater job security. They also complained that many employers had refused to raise salaries during this year's annual wage talks with management, held every spring in Japan.

Yoshio Takahashi, a Rengo official, has urged the government to save workers from Japan's stagnant economy, now in its third recession in a decade. He adds that creating more jobs should be the top priority for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

One protestor said he wants to tell lawmakers to stop companies from laying off more workers. He added that he hopes the demonstration will give courage to others who are also concerned about their jobs.

Another large labor group plans to stage a nationwide rally Friday, in which thousands more workers are expected to protest against Japan's high unemployment. Some workers are expected to hold a limited strike of their own.