The Labor Offensive fought in coming spring time will be politically intervened by the Abe government in the same way as last year. The labor side must not be cheated by political and business involvement. Furthermore, the labor offensive must not be ended in a settlement based on the productivity rule. It is time for workers to demand right wages to meet the actual living conditions.
DEMAND RIGHT WAGES TO MEET ACTUAL LIVING CONDITIONS
Employers’ rule - Productivity
In the New Year address Prime Minister Abe told ‘Japanese economy has been improved without doubt as cooperation among the government, industry and labor was successful in overcoming the deflation’, boasting of the 5th Conference on Joint Efforts of the Government-Industry-Labor to Attain Better Economy held in the end of last year. He added that ‘if the economy goes on in this way, I could guarantee that people will enjoy a happy, prosperous spring time’.
Three business organizations held a New Year party, respectively, and after the event they held a news conference attended by top leaders. They welcomed a wage hike for workers. One of the leaders said: ‘I kindly ask employers to raise salaries to boost the economy’, and ‘I believe employees will gain higher incomes in the coming Labor Offensive. I cordially ask the government to implement growth policies. Simultaneously, I can say that private companies are ready to raise salaries for employees’.
Another executive says ‘employers should increase not only bonuses but also the standard salaries for young workers. I propose various ways to benefit workers, including a hike in the basic salaries’. He suggested an increase will be made in the wage basis.
Employers, however, rely on productivity as preconditions to give a reply to employees. That is a rule to lower the average hike rate in the nominal salaries below the productivity growth rate. A logical consequence of employers remains the same in the past and at present. It is criteria introduced during the 1969 Spring Offensive by the then-Nikkeiren (currently the Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation), and have been employed as a norm for a wage increase.
The prime minister said in the year-end meeting about ‘successful cooperation of the government, industry and labor’. That means the labor side must learn that wages should be set on the basis of this rule and that they may down if business performance is poor in a single fiscal year: the labor side was forced to share the idea. That is why Premier Abe told the trilateral cooperation was a success.
Don’t get aboard a sinking ship
If you get aboard a ship called Abenomics captained by Abe, you will be drowned. You cannot make right requests. A destination of this boat is legislation to allow employers to decide on wages and dismissal of workers at discretion in the labor-employer autonomy framework proposed by the Keidanren. The law will urge workers to collaborate with the business’s growth strategy.
Premier Abe has told many lies: ‘workers will enjoy a bigger income in ten years, which is higher by 1.5 million Yen’ (in fact he refers to the gross national income=GNI) and ‘wages will be raised by 5% (later he rectified, as 2%)’. Thus, workers do not simply believe that the basic wages will increase in the 2014 Offensive.
Employers’ words to heighten basic salary may be replaced with a low rate hike in the wages in general or better bonuses. Workers in the medium-and-small companies and in rural areas will not be benefitted by the promise.
To demand right wages to reflect livelihood is the key in the Spring Labor Offensive. Labor unions should stage independent struggles to win right wages.
The Rengo, Japan Trade Union Confederation, demands a wage hike by 1% after five years of indifference in the salary. The Zenrokyo, the National Trade Union Council, demands an increase by 17,000 Yen on the monthly basis to reflect the actual living conditions.
As of April the consumption tax rate will rise to 8%. Trade unions must work sincerely with dearest voices of workers. It is time for unions to stage independent struggles and create unity among workers through various activities like a group study, exchange meetings and rallies will help them.
February 4, 2014