Minimum Wage \ Political battle is key to win minimum wage increase
The present situation surrounding 2010 struggle
In present-day Japan, a huge number of working people are in the state of gworking poorh. They are unable to get out of poverty even though they are working hard to contribute to increasing corporate profits. The number of working people whose annual income is less than two million yen (about 22,000 US dollars) is 17,250,000, or 34.3 percent of all employees in Japan, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry's g2008 Labor Force Surveyh.
Workers who have no bright future in sight despite their strenuous efforts in workplaces in harsh working conditions are experiencing serious hardships in life and have deep uncertainties and distrust in society. Politics must not overlook this situation.
In the 2009 House of Representatives general election, several political parties in their election platforms called for an overhaul of the minimum wage system. The task now is for the Diet in its current session to set to work on legislation to raise the minimum wage and reduce regional disparities in the minimum wage, in addition to extending more financial support to small- and medium-sized b businesses.
We will put even greater pressure on the government panel reviewing the minimum wage to come up with a proposal for substantial increase in the minimum wage.
Ruling party must implement its campaign promise
The ruling Democratic Party took power after the 2009 House of Representatives general election, in which it promised to increase the national minimum wage to at least 800 yen per hour and the national average to 1,000 yen.
Many workers are looking forward to a significant raise of the minimum wage. However, the list of bills to be submitted in the current session of the Diet does not include one to revise the minimum wage law. The ruling party must explain what happened to its election promise.
According to reports, the government and the ruling Democratic Party intend to set to work to review the minimum wage law in 2011. They have no intention to raise the issue in the current session of the Diet. They are doing nothing in preparation for the minimum wage to be revised this coming summer.
Panel members representing employers say the council should not suggest any concrete amount
A minimum wage panel member representing employers says, gIn view of the economic downturn and the status of wage negotiations in the Spring Struggle, the Central Minimum Wages Council would conclude this year's session without presenting any standards if its discussion proceeds as usual. The problem is the Democratic Party. The question is: to what extent will the Democratic Party stick by its election promise that the minimum wage should not be less than 800 yen and that the national average should be at least 1,000 yen.
Although some panel members are stating their opinion in complete disregard of the presence of members representing labor, we should note that the panel is pointing to the importance of political leadership in encouraging the minimum wage council to turn to proceed with its discussion on the premise that the minimum wage will be raised.
What does the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), which occupies all labor seats on the minimum wage council, say about the minimum wage?
Rengo adopted a policy statement entitled gPolicy for work on minimum wages for 2010h at its Central Executive Committee meeting on February 18. It stated that in revising the amounts of regional minimum wages, we must not allow the trend that has improved the minimum wages through an increase of 40 yen in the last three years to be halted. We demand that disparities between the level of livelihood assistance benefits and the minimum wages be resolved as promptly as possible, and focusing on the Rengo-proposed living wage and starting pay for high school graduates, we demand that the council deliberation focus on improving the absolute standards so that ethe minimum wage ensuring lifef will be achieved.h
Rengo is certainly aware of the need to not put the brakes on the present direction toward raising the minimum wages, but it allows a review of the present minimum wage system to be deferred until after 2011.
Rengo plans to send a study team on equal treatment of full-time and contingent workers and on the minimum wage to Britain, France and the Netherlands in anticipation of government moves. This means that Rengo will not urge the ruling party to implement its promise of a minimum wage increase in the current session of the Diet and that it will not take any initiative in preparation for the annual review of the minimum wage this summer.
We demand that the minimum wage be a main issue in politics
The issue of revising the minimum wage is in a very difficult situation.
It is certainly important for us to put pressure on the central and local minimum wage councils, just as we have done so far. But without the effort to have the issue of the minimum wages considered as an item of political agenda, revision of the minimum wage could be held down to unreasonably low amount because of the economic downturn.
We must make workersf voice heard by lawmakers so that the minimum wages will be improved fundamentally just as the ruling party promised.
We are collecting signatures in support of the petition calling for the minimum wage to be raised to at least 1,000 yen. Let us bring the signatures to the Diet and urge the government and political parties, ruling and opposition, to implement their election promise of a substantial increase in the minimum wages and establishment of a national minimum wage system.
Popular support for the ruling Democratic Party has been falling rapidly. Support for the opposition Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties is almost unchanged. With the next House of Councilors elections being held later this year, these parties are worrying about votersf interest.
We should seize this situation as an opportunity. Let us energetically petition lawmakers and political parties so that they will uphold a minimum wage increase and take support measures for small- and medium-sized businesses as an important set of their policies.
We will further develop our movement to press the Health, Labor and Welfare Minister to request the Minimum Wage Council to come up with advice calling for a sharp minimum wage increase. This will lead regional minimum wage councils to propose a substantial minimum wage increase at their meetings in late July or early August. This is the concept with which we will step up various actions while the Diet is in session, including signature collection and publicity.