This is not the first time that Goldman Sachs in Tokyo has had to deal with the National Union of General Workers in Shimbashi, by the way. Around 2008, there was another Goldman employee who had allied with the union for a settlement package.
The most recent incarnation of the union at Goldman has 15 members, several of whom have been fighting Goldman’s adopting labor practices that are totally outside of Japanese labor law. In this Reuters clip, one independent labor attorney says that it’s very common for foreign firms to decide to opt themselves out, so to speak, of the Japanese Labor Standards Act and other related laws.
There is no “at will” employment in Japan.
What seems to be happening at Goldman Sachs is a bit similar to what happened to me at IBM. Someone, somewhere in the world, decided that they want to save a little money by targeting the foreigners in Japan. And, the next thing you know, jobs start disappearing.
I imagine that the press publicity was meant to encourage Goldman Sachs to act with “sincerity” in the labor negotiation, and a bit for theatrics. It’s not a Guy Fawkes mask that “Adam Lee” is using, but its use recalls the recent Occupy protests. The 99% at Goldman wants the Japanese labor laws respected, because these are the ones by which the people are hired, and by which labor costs within the overall nation are set. It’s hard to believe that free marketers like the Goldman upper management don’t understand that the wages prevalent in Japan are set with the full knowledge that there is no at-will employment. The wages are lower than they would be, in the event companies could fire at will in Japan.
Good luck to these guys in the General Workers. Big companies are tough to fight, and they just try to wait you out if you have a case.
[Update: Earlier coverage from the Business Insider site about the union.]