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2013年10月 6日 (日)

連合会長3選 賃上げへの追い風生かせるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 6, 2013
Can Rengo ride favorable winds of Abenomics to achieve pay hikes?
連合会長3選 賃上げへの追い風生かせるか(10月5日付・読売社説)

How can a virtuous circle be created in which wage increases are achieved in line with economic growth? The role of labor unions will be put to the test in this regard.

At its regular meeting, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) has agreed to press for wage hikes ahead of the annual spring labor offensive. Rengo President Nobuaki Koga, who was elected for a rare third term, urged affiliated unions to study concrete measures to realize this goal.

The move reflects the trade union’s intention to ride the favorable winds of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics policies, which are aimed at getting the country out of deflation.

A consumption tax rate increase from next spring has already been decided on. If the impact of the tax rate increase can be reduced by introducing pay increases, and if personal consumption can thereby be invigorated, the economic recovery will become more certain.

Rengo has joined a three-party forum representing the government, economic circles and labor unions to help with an effort to move toward creating a virtuous circle. As the business world is still wary of pay increases, labor and management representatives must work to find a way to achieve them.

However, the gap between Rengo and the Abe administration is widening on the issue of employment deregulation. At its recent regular meeting, Rengo adopted a special resolution calling for “a confrontational stance to categorically refuse any attempt to change the rules on worker protection for the worse.”

As a pillar of its growth strategy, the Abe administration is studying a policy of encouraging reemployment at promising companies by making dismissal and job transfer easier. It also aims to expand the temporary employment system.

Given the fact that nearly 40 percent of the workforce are nonregular workers, it is understandable that the labor unions are concerned about employment stability.

Low unionization rate

Although employment regulations were toughened under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, supported by Rengo, the move failed to stem an increase in the number of nonregular workers. Rengo has set “a goal of organizing nonregular workers” as a centerpiece of its movement, but so far this has not led to sufficient results.

There has been some criticism that Rengo, comprising mainly regular workers at large firms, is far from representative of the working population as a whole. Meanwhile, the rate of unionization has dropped to 17.9 percent.

To what extent can Rengo exercise its influence over improving wages and labor conditions? This is a difficult challenge for Rengo.

Regarding working with political parties, Koga said Rengo “is willing to hold consultative policy talks with any ruling or opposition party” despite maintaining its conventional policy of leaning heavily toward the DPJ.

Disappointment in the DPJ’s failure to manage its government was profoundly felt within Rengo. This is evidenced by the fact that the Japan Teachers Union, a Rengo member, removed “support for the DPJ” from its action plan.

It is notable that Rengo has revised its political mandate for the first time in a decade. As it removed the phrase “it is too early to put constitutional revision up for discussion,” Rengo seems finally to accept discussions over revising the nation’s top law.

Koga-led Rengo must respond swiftly to changes in the times. It should promote a realistic labor movement that can win the approval of a wide spectrum of people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2013)
(2013年10月5日01時26分  読売新聞)


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