Nansei Sekiyu workers concerned over their future employment: seek assurances from company

October 30, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Employees of Nansei Sekiyu, which is led by CEO Lincoln Shiodiro Ishikawa and located in Nishihara, have shared their concerns over employment security from April 2016. The company has not shown any guarantee of employment support, including suggesting retirement allowances and outplacements due to uncertainties over the number of resignees and the timing of their resignation. Labor experts and employees say strategies need to be taken at least three months ahead of closure. However, the Okinawa Labor Bureau and the prefectural government have not been able to intervene due to a lack of information from the company.

The company employed 198 members as of January, 2015. According to a survey conducted by the Labor Bureau, approximately 15 employees had resigned as of October this year due to the Brazilian firm Petrobras, the holding company of Nansei Sekiyu, announcing its closure in Japan in March. The majority of the 15 employees have since found new employment.

However, Petrobras has not identified a transfer company, and the employees are concerned because they cannot be certain they will have a job after April next year. When Nansei Sekiyu announced to its business partners in September the contract for petroleum products would not be extended after March 31, 2016, there was no communication between the company and employees. Employees have expressed frustration saying, “Information about the foreseeable plan including a possible buyout is lacking.”

In March this year, the labor union requested the company suggest an estimated retirement allowance, support for outplacements, and a travel allowance for employees from outside of the prefecture. However, the company has not replied. In response, the labor union ceased the “36 agreement”, a resolution over an overtime dispute, on which workers and employers were due to sign off on October 19.

The Labor Bureau planned to establish an office for urgent employment support, and the prefectural government also planned to liaise between Nansei Sekiyu, the labor bureau and Nishihara Town after Petrobras announced its closure in Japan. However neither of these plans has been executed yet. According to the Labor Bureau’s Department of Employment Support, Nansei Sekiyu says it will decide on plans, such as redundancy packages, for retirees when Petrobas finalizes its closure and possible buyout.

The department also stated, “in general, resignees would need to start looking for new employment around the end of this year, three months before the closure, yet there is no information from the company on how many people will leave the company. We are not able to provide support without that information.”

There was no mention of a concrete re-employment plan when the CEO Ishikawa visited the prefectural government on November 22 and met the prefectural government officials. The prefectural government officials stated, “we will be able to respond once the labor union receives the detail on retirement conditions, but nothing can be done from our side now.” However, they have stressed the urgency of the matter, saying, “it will directly impact people’s lives so employment support is needed, but we can do nothing at this moment.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma)

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