Major companies replied to campaign of the 2017 Spring Labor Offensive on March 15 and 16, but a hike in the basic wage was less than that of last year. The government-sponsored labor offensive was waged for the fourth time this year under the Abe government. But the results were unsuccessful for workers. Chairman of the Rengo, or the Japan Trade Union Confederation, boasted of the achievements, saying the results were as good as those of the previous offensive. But workers do not feel satisfied.
WORKERS CANNOT WIN WITHOUT RESISTING GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT
The 2017 Spring Labor Offensive was characterized by a fact that labor unions were hedged around by the policy of the prime minister’s private advisory panel, the Work-style Reform Promotion Council. On November 16 last year Premier Abe Shinzo requested the business leaders ‘to increase salaries in 2017 by at least the same level as that of 2016 and maintain a hike in the basic wages for four consecutive years’. The management side accepted the offer seemingly.
The labor side, too, saw a prospect in the alleged ‘hike in the basic wages for four consecutive years’, but it left behind the principle that wages should be won by struggles.
Management Side is Very Happy
The management allured the labor to enter its ground, emphasizing negotiation and dialogue. Employers held two-way meetings between the management and the labor and round-table conferences at workplaces. As a result, the labor gets obedient. Labor unions throw weapons away to be defenseless, thus they are obliged to accept straightforward replies of the management. The latter is very happy, laughing loudly.
The Rengo requested 2% hike in the basic wages during the offensive, which is the same level as that of last time. If the phrase of Premier Abe, ‘at least as the same level as that of the 2016 Offensive’, had been realized, the hike would have been around 1,500 Yen for workers in the electric and automobile industries. But the management was not an ally.
Premier Abe told confidently in his speech at the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry on March 16 that ‘a higher wage hike might have been possible’ and praised the management’s achievement to inclement salaries for four consecutive years.
100 Hours of Overwork per Month
The Premier’s reform council ridiculed the labor offensive. It proposed the guidelines for a rule ‘equal pay for equal work’ on December 20. On March 14 at the final stage of the offensive the panel made a decision that ‘up to 100 hours of overwork per month may be allowed during a busy season’ to the satisfaction of the management. Employers have concerned correction of the practice of long-hour labor. The council’s meeting on March 17 reached a conclusion in the reform to admit the overwork longer than 80 hours a month, which is the critical length that may lead to a death of workers.
The focal point was intentionally sidetracked during the 2017 Offensive by the management as it forced the labor to pay attention to ‘a reform of work-style’. The latter was obliged to involve in the issue of long-hour overwork as it relates to health of workers.
The government began to interfere in the labor offensive in 2013, using a theory of trickle-down (if the rich become richer, wealth comes down to people), which is a deception. The government implemented policies to favor the rich with a goal of good economic performance. Consequently the number of households of the rich who have over 100 million Yen in the monetary assets has increased by 400,000 (50.2%), compared with the figure of 2011 when the so-called Abenomics economic policy was absent. Only 2% of people of the total population own 20% of all the assets that Japan has.
No Wage Increase
Workers in the major industries, the electric and automobile sectors, failed to gain the same wage hike as that of last year. Thus the outcome affects seriously on other industries, the tertiary industries such as private railways and merchandising, in which workers do not enjoy a wage hike.
When the government involves in the labor offensive, unions are forced to struggle through a technique of separate negotiation. The strongest weapon of workers, a strike, is far away from workplaces as labor unions emphasize negotiation.
April 4, 2017