Major companies replied, intensively, on March 13 and 14 to demands raised by labor unions during the Spring Labor Offensive season. The Offensive 2014 has been ridiculed by mass media as ‘a government-led campaign’, through which, reportedly, workers could gain a wage hike. But, consequently, outcomes were severe to workers even at big corporations. The management of Toyota, one of the most prestigious firms, did not meet the full amount of union’s demands. Unions of private railway companies could not succeed in raising the basic salary.
LOCALITY-BASED SOLIDARITY NECESSARY TO SATISFY DEMANDS COMING OUT OF LIVELIHOOD
Big businesses in Japan mark the record-biggest earnings due to cheap Yen appreciation. Toyota, after reviewing its estimated business performance for the March 2014 period, rectified the figures to the higher level; to 2.4 trillion Yen for business profit and to 15.2025 trillion Yen for consolidated internal reserves, both of which are the highest in the history. Other big companies which work actively overseas make money, too, whose internal reserves simply exceed \1 trillion.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo produced a theatrical labor campaign on the political stage this year as he intends to boost economy, because his government decided to raise the consumption tax rate to 8% from April. Minister of State for Economy and Fiscal Policy Amari Akira told in a threatening manner; ‘the earthquake rehabilitation tax collection was lifted prior to the schedule. If an employer neglects to raise salaries for workers, I will announce a name of the company’. But employers, who have the right to decide, were not made persuaded. They escaped unions’ demands smartly. The response was a nominal, tiny hike of salaries.
Leaders of politics-business-labor feel happy
Many companies replied to their unions on March 13; unions affiliated to the Japan Council Metalworkers’ Unions (JCM) had expected satisfactory replies as in the case of Toyota last year. But even the automobile manufacturer did not fully respond to the labor’s demand, though it has enormous profits. Looking at Toyota, other companies gave a harsh reply to their unions.
However, leaders of politics, management and unions felt happy: Chairman of the Keidanren (=Japan Business Federation) told, ‘the results are satisfactory as sincere debates were made between the management and the labor’, Secretary General of the Rengo (=Japanese Trade Union Confederation) Kozu Rikio said, ‘the offensive has just started and a good start was made’, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said ‘a good wage hike, which has not been achieved for years’.
Three big convenience store chains, namely, Seven Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart, which boast as active supporters of the so-called Abenomics policy, presented a full amount reply to the demands of unions. But its impact to other sectors is none.
Union leaders of big private railway companies were troubled as they expected to have a reply on the following day, March 14. They worried about the fact that the JCM failed to win a full amount of demands. Naturally, repercussions reached their unions.
Unions of private railway companies used to be a locomotive of labor movements as they went on strike if the results were not satisfactory. But today they have renounced this strategy to choose negotiation talks with the management. A demand to increase basic salary was frustrated, though major railway firms have earned good profits for years, being ranked as A as entities, and their capital-to-asset ratios exceed 20% to keep business growing.
Smaller companies and provinces beyond Metropolitan areas
The Spring Offensive 2014 tricked workers; the government-led campaign presented a higher bonus in the context of Abenomics policy. During September and December last year five rounds of negotiation were held with attendance of leaders from politics, business and unions. They had agreed on that; (1) wage hike should be in line with the rule of productivity standard, and (2) forms of struggles should be through negotiation and equal treatment should not be applied to different unions. The history-biggest profits have not been linked to the labor’s demands.
Some JCM unions of big companies and of powerful firms in the Metropolitan areas were successful in gaining a surge in the basic salary, but unions in the provinces were not. The agreement reached by the leadership of politics, business and labor did not work upon smaller firms and those in the provinces. As for workers employed on the temporary basis, they could not improve their status.
Unions of smaller companies and those of the provinces now begin negotiation with employers. Unions must struggle based on livelihood of workers and seek solidarity in their respective localities.
April 1, 2014