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2009年1月16日 (金)

春闘スタート 環境激変に労使一体で当たれ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 16, 2009)

Time for management, labor to work together

春闘スタート 環境激変に労使一体で当たれ(116日付・読売社説)

This year's shunto, or spring labor offensive, started Thursday, as the world reels from a recession that has no end in sight.


The leaders of the Japanese Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) held a meeting to spell out their basic stances before launching labor-management negotiations for wages and working conditions.


Such notable export-oriented industries as automobile and electrical machinery--leading players in shunto negotiations--are caught in the storm of the global recession.


The major challenge for management and labor is to find ways to sharpen competitive edges of companies without harming employee morale.



Antagonism hurts progress

At the Thursday meeting, Rengo demanded for the first time in eight years for an increase in the basic wage in a bid to push up the wage level. It asserted that real-term wages are decreasing due to rises in commodity prices and that the most effective economic stimulus measure would be to expand consumption through wage increases.


The Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers' Unions and the Japanese Electrical, Electronic and Information Union--both of which operate under the Rengo umbrella--demanded monthly pay increases of more than 4,000 yen and 4,500 yen, respectively.


These demands are bold. The figures compare with last year's demands of more than 1,000 yen for the automobile unions confederation and more than 2,000 yen for the electrical, electronic and information union.


Nippon Keidanren, however, found this year's union demands impossible to accept. It counterargued that it is a general principle to decide wage levels based on each company's ability to pay--not on commodity price fluctuations--and that virtually all companies are unable to raise wages now.


As it is, negotiations could be marked by fruitless antagonism throughout. It is essential for labor and management to cooperate, particularly in a time of crisis. Let us hope that compromises can be hammered out through exhaustive discussions.



Results needed from all sides

The state of affairs surrounding labor and management is changing day by day, as exemplified by the decision of some companies to cut wages and at the same time suspend parts of their operations.


It is possible that a succession of labor unions will drop Rengo's policy during their negotiations with management.


Furthermore, employment issues cannot go unaddressed.


Nippon Keidanren and Rengo have compiled a joint declaration, pledging to cooperate in ensuring employment stability and tackling other pressing issues. At the center of their declaration are demands on the government, such as the expansion of the employment safety net and the swift implementation of measures to create jobs.


At this pressing time, it is important for labor and management to jointly urge that the government implement employment measures. But putting everything on the government's shoulders will not fix the current predicament.


Their joint declaration stated that Nippon Keidanren and Rengo "reaffirm that the long-term employment system has supported the growth and development of companies and the economy, and that they will make utmost efforts to attain economic recovery."


The number of nonregular workers in the manufacturing sector has been drastically slashed in a short period. Such employment adjustments could eventually affect regular workers. Problems also have emerged regarding economic gaps between regular and nonregular workers.


We hope in-depth discussions will be carried out with the aim of producing tangible measures in line with this declaration.


In this spring's labor offensive, both management and the unions will be watched closely on how they act to weather the upheaval in the business environment and attain sustained growth.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2009)

20091160137  読売新聞)


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