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Nurses Stage Nationwide Protest Against Working Conditions

November 10, 1990

TOKYO (AP) _ About 100,000 nurses have staged a day of strikes and protests nationwide, demanding an end to low pay, long hours and overwork that they say causes many to quit after a few years.

The strikes Friday were the first in 21 years by the 170,000-member Japan Federation of Medical Workers Unions. The federation wants more nurses hired at more than 1,000 medical institutions, said spokeswoman Seishi Katsuragi.

Daylong strikes were held Friday at 522 private hospitals, Ms. Katsuragi said.

Because strikes are illegal for workers at national institutions, nurses at the National Cancer Center Research Institute handed out leaflets and gathered for a rally before work hours.

Ms. Katsuragi said the number of nurses employed needs to double to about 1.5 million - about the number of registered nurses in the country. However, many prospective nurses refuse to work for the low pay.

Their starting salary is about $1,160 a month; they want $1,230. Nurses also get bonuses totaling about 4 1/2 months’ pay in two installments each year.

Now, the union federation says, most nurses must work late into their pregnancies and nearly 70 percent have problematic pregnancies as a result.

Often two nurses must take care of 50 patients at night, according to the group’s study.

Toshihiro Kitagawa, secretary-general of the National Medical Labor Union, which staged the protest at the National Cancer Center Research Institute in Tokyo, said many of the nurses are working three hours of overtime daily.

″Many nurses quit after about three years because they cannot take the low pay, long hours and hard work,″ said Masahiko Kodama, another union leader at the hospital.

Hospital management has not made any counter-offers, and the federation says its members will strike again Nov. 27 if there is no progress in negotiations.

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