Spring Labor Offensive, which is fought annually in this time of the year, has ended as if it had been performed in the theater amid the insidious economic policy of the government, called 'Abenomics'. The management of three major chains of convenience stores, in which labor unions are absent, made an unusual announcement of wage increase and payment of temporary benefit. During the Offensive 2013 major labor unions kept a low profile. It was not successful, again, in winning a wage hike, coming to an end with an arranged sum of season's benefits.
NEGOTIATED ON SEASON'S BENEFITS, BUT REJECTED WAGE HIKE
Minimum Wage May be Abolished
The three national centers of trade unions made a request, respectively: the Rengo (=Japanese Trade Unions Confederation) proposed a 1% surge in salary, the Zenrokyo (=National Trade Union Council) demanded payment of 1,000 Yen her hour and a 10,000 Yen increase in the monthly wage and the Zenroren (=National Confederation of Trade Unions), a monthly salary over 170,000 Yen. Meanwhile the management, Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, replied that the regular wage hike will be frozen and postponed.
The Keidanren gives the biggest priority to business continuity and employment because of the weaker competitiveness in the international market due to deflation and high Yen appreciation. It emphatically states that total labor costs must be held down and has taken a more stringent position than that of 2012, according to their 2013 Report of Management and Labor Policy Committee.
The report touches on the region-based minimum wages: it says that the industry-based minimum wage system must be abolished immediately as it has fulfilled its mission because the region-based wages were drastically raised and the level of industry-based wages is lower in some cases.
But in fact the Keidanren's report conceals the low level industry-based wages. In fact a drastic surge was not made in the minimum wages on the region basis. The management is so worried about that the minimum wages may be revised on the regional basis that it carefully watches a possible rise of the bottom line. If employers advocate effects of the so-called Abenomics, they should understand that the key to boost business is to heighten the minimum wages.
Workers Excluded as Actors
The Abe government's policy excluded workers and unions, as actors, during the labor offensive, bringing bubbles in the economy. In the background of apparently positive market performance due to cheap appreciation of Yen and good scores in the stock market Premier Abe advised the management to raise wages of workers. Thus trade unions have withdrawn demands of a hike, agreeing with offers of arranged sum of season's benefits. The labor offensive has concluded with compromises, leaving the actors immobilized.
The management well replied to the demand of the labor: it accepted the entire demand for season's benefits because labor unions demanded a very low sum from the initial stage. Mass media report that 'solutions for the Spring Labor Offensive 2013 were successful as a result of the Abe's policy'. That is a hollow discussion.
In the 2013 offensive major trade unions, including unions of metal workers, had intensive negotiation on March 13 and 14 to gain replies, pressing the employers. The talks have reached conclusions that (1) season's benefits, which coordinate the total sum of wage, may be negotiated and (2) the labor offensive should be marked with talks between employers and union leaders, avoiding struggles at workplaces.
Major trade unions announce their statements: the wage structure is successfully maintained to help smaller trade unions keep the bottom figures and social responsibilities were fulfilled (Metal Workers' Unions Council), the wage model was well maintained and season's benefits were saved (General Association of Private Railways Unions), a wage increase was not won but other benefits, including season's payments were improved (Japan Railway Rengo), and so on.
However, struggles at workplaces, which are the main activities of the offensive, were absent. It was quite a pity that the 2013 labor offensive was swallowed by the Abe's money policy.
Employers Are Completely Safe
On March 26 smaller metal companies announced replies to the trade unions. Major newspapers reported 'replies for season's benefits are better, surpassing the results of 2012'. Readers may be confused with a wage hike. But, in fact, trade unions demanded lower sum for benefits and obtained a portion produced by the ordinary regular wage hike. Employers are happy as they do not lose anything.
Community-based small and mini unions start negotiation with employers. Unity in the trade unions and solidarity which may produce total struggles between the labor and the capital open a path for victory for workers.
April 9, 2013