Major trade unions, including those of the metal (IMF-JC), transport, communications workers and etc., obtained replies on March 14 and 15 in a concentrated way in the midst of the 2012 Spring Offensive, during which workers wage annual labor campaigns. The greatest focus was put on the regular wage hike this year, which was supported by most of the big corporations. As for a bonus, however, many companies reduced to a sum lower than that of last year, which, consequently, has kept the total amount of labor costs unchanged on the side of the employers.
WORKERS MUST BE READY TO GO ON STRIKE DURING LABOR OFFEISIVE
The Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, announced on January 23 the Report from Council on Management and Labor Policies, which indicates the organization's guidelines to cope with the labor offensive 2012. The paper stressed that the 'business circumstances would be tighter', considering the 'excessively high appreciation of Yen in the exchange market, the natural disaster which had hit the eastern Japan last year and the Euro crisis'.
The report continues to say that 'negotiations on a wage hike will be hard between the labor and the management. A hike may be postponed or frozen', a stance contrary to that of 2011, when the business organization had acknowledged the hike. The report harshly criticizes the labor's proposal of a 1% surge, for instance, of the Rengo, or the Japan Trade Union Confederation, explaining that 'the labor's notion is too naive on the critical management situation'. The Keidanren flatly rejects the demand of wage hike.
Regular Wage Hike Rejected
The Keidanren's report says about a bonus that 'a sound judgment is required on the basis of actual job achievements'. It clarifies a position in which individual companies should negotiate with the labor, relying on their own business performance. It is for the first time for the Keidanren to behave negatively to the practice of regular wage hike after 2004, when the economic environment aggravated, affected by the 9.11 incident and financial uneasiness.
The Keidanren has asserted that 'both the labor and the management must work together to sustain and develop corporate activities with full exertion of wisdom. That is the Spring Offensive' (Chairman Yonekura Hiroaki).
The employers' replies for the 2012 offensive are: most of the big businesses, including Toyota and Panasonic, maintained as a rule a regular wage hike. Companies registered in the stock market are usually 'reluctant to freeze the practice, fearing a fall in the stock appreciation as investors may underestimate corporate strength'.
On bonuses, Toyota and Honda supported the labor's demand because the unions' proposals had been lower than the actual levels of last year. Many corporations, including Hitachi, did not fully meet the labor's demands, and Mazda proposed the lowest level of bonus in its history. The employers' side maintained the wage hike practice, but it was forced to adjust bonus payments within the total of labor costs.
The Keidanren appreciated the Offensive 2012 as successful on the ground that 'major industrialists of the country made the maximum efforts to prioritize corporate business to be sustained and employment to be maintained'. The labor offensive 2012 ended as the Keidanren had envisaged in the said Report.
Certainly, unions of big corporations defended the practice of regular wage hike, but as far as content is concerned, it was just an internal arrangement inside the compnay: the wage system is maintained and a hike is made. A bonus is set in accordance with performance and is raised a little bit. People outside the company cannot see the content. The Rengo says it will work so that the replies of Big Business may influence better on the bottom wages of medium-and-small enterprises, but the situation tells that subsequent offensives waged by smaller unions will be more difficult.
Voices of Dissatisfaction and Lamentation
The Spring Offensive ends with 'distribution of wages', but many workers lament results, dissatisfied. Many corporations adopt 'a result-oriented policy' in the wage system, producing a payroll and evaluating employees through job performance. Individual workers do not see exactly by how much and on which basis the salary is surged even if they work in the same company. In addition, wages are set at the discretion of companies.
Unless workers struggle in their own workplaces, Spring Offensive will fade away as precedes the management's result-oriented wage system and are abolished the seniority system and wage hike practice. Workers must not renounce labor offensive in the spring season. A wage is not set by sympathy of the management. A demand must reflect a worker's livelihood and if the demand is rejected, workers should go on strike during the annual labor offensive.
April 10, 2012