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Speech by Zenroren President DAIKOKU Sakuji

At the Meeting of Representatives of Federations on the People’s Spring Struggle Joint Committee

June 23, 2010, Tokyo

I declare the meeting of representatives of federations open on behalf of the Standing Joint Struggle Committee. We are meeting today to discuss the tentative review of the 2010 Spring Struggle and ways to intensify the summer struggle.

Let me begin by commenting on the outcome of the first Spring Struggle since the Democratic Party-led coalition took power by kicking out the Liberal Democratic-New Komeito coalition. Under the slogan “Seize the ongoing change as a chance to eliminate poverty and economic inequalities and to boost domestic demand,” we demanded a wage increase of “more than 10,000 yen per month, more than 100 yen per hour.” We also demanded that the minimum wage be raised to 1,000 yen or more. Our unions submitted these demands and were ready to go on strike to win. They decided to urge companies to respond to their demands by mid-March and settle their negotiations by mid-April.

Our campaign focused on several key issues: Opposition to dismissals and unemployment; a fundamental revision of the Worker Dispatch Law; wages/incomes based on the cost of living, the establishment of the nation’s establishment of the minimum standards of living with a minimum wage set at 1,000 yen or more; improvements in social services; legislation to require local government contracts to include provisions to set the minimum wage for workers at local contractors. The average wage increase won by Spring Struggle Joint Committee member unions was 5,321 yen, up 38 yen from the previous year. However, the average increase won per worker was 5,820 yen, down 44 yen from the previous year. Contingent workers, including part-time workers (180 unions), got a wage increase of 14.9 yen (1.43 percent), down 4.7 yen from the previous year.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo)’s industrial federations consisting of unions at large corporations only sought to maintain the system of receiving wages according to the worker’s age and did not demand an increase in basic wages. Business leaders are also insisting that any basic wage increase is out of question and even trying to force workers to accept a freeze on annual wage increases. Large corporations’ improvement in business performance does not have trickle-down effect on small- and medium-sized enterprises, making it difficult for unions to win a wage increase. Many companies are unsure about their survival. What is more, many of the Spring Struggle Joint Committee member unions represent workers at smaller private-sector companies, which do not have the annual wage increase system. Considering these factors, I think we put up a good fight.

Secondly, I want to call your attention to the fact that many unions have also campaigned to stop the dismissal and unemployment, focusing on the demand for the fundamental revision of the Worker Dispatch Law. Auto, electronics and some other large exporters are picking up business after experiencing a plunge, but this has been made possible by cutting costs through cutting prices of supplies they pay to subcontractors. This clearly shows that these corporations continue to increase their dependence on exports. Small- and medium-sized subcontractors and companies in construction and service sectors are being forced to go bankrupt and fire workers due to declining purchasing power. Under these circumstances, it continues to be very important to heighten public demand that large corporations use a part of their huge internal reserves for the benefit of the public and that the poverty and economic inequalities be eased.

Financial circles say their internal reserves are not something that can be cashed immediately. But this contradicts the fact that they are continuing to give shareholders dividends and invest abroad.

We are demanding an end to the tyranny of large corporations. We are demanding that they stop unilaterally cut the prices they pay to subcontractors for supplies. We are demanding that large corporations use a part of their internal reserves to reduce poverty and ease economic inequalities. We are demanding that the Worker Dispatch Law be fundamentally revised. We are demanding a substantial minimum wage increase. We are promoting the movement to make contracts for public works ensure that workers get paid just enough to sustain their living. These demands are essential for shifting the national economy to one led by increasing domestic demand, and we must constantly develop a national movement for this, even if it may take time. In sum, getting rid of large corporations’ domination of society is essential to improve our living conditions.

Thirdly, I want to talk about the change of government that took place last year in Japan. The present government led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is reluctant to make representations to the business sector to demand that large corporations release a part of their internal reserves and raise wages. It says that the matter should be left to labor talks at each corporation.

The former cabinet under Prime Minister HATOYAMA Yukio was forced to give up power just eight months after its inauguration. In his resignation statement, Hatoyama said he wanted to take responsibility for failing to keep his public promise on the issue of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa and in response to public criticism of his problem concerning money politics. However, his successor, Prime Minister KAN Naoto has done nothing to make a difference in this regard. His political stance of giving priority to the so-called “Japan-U.S. agreement” on relocating the Futenma base just runs counter to what the public needs. The new cabinet has done nothing to establish truth about money politics scandals.

The DPJ government is unable to break with a spellbinding of “the need to increase international competitiveness” as advocated by financial circles. As a consequence, Prime Minister Kan has made public his intention to call for the consumption tax rate to be increased to 10 percent from the present five percent and for corporate tax rates to be reduced.

Twenty-two years have passed since the introduction of the consumption tax. During these years, 224 trillion yen was paid in consumption tax by people. But large corporations have enjoyed a 205 trillion yen cut in three corporate taxes. The government has abandoned its duty to redistribute tax revenues to help the socially disadvantaged and used consumption tax revenue to make up for tax cuts for large corporations. This is what actually has happened.

More than 1.34 million households live on welfare assistance. The number of temporary agency workers has increased to four million. About 3,560,000 people are out of work. More than 10 thousand people are "working poor".

The major issues that we raised in the Spring Struggle are actually issues pending in the current House of Councilors election. They are wage increases, including a substantial minimum wage increase, the fundamental revision of the Worker Dispatch Law, improvements in social services such as the abolition of the health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and older, and revitalization of local economies by developing a movement for local government contracts ensuring decent wages.

During and after the upcoming House of Councilors elections, the issues of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station and the consumption tax will become immediate national issues. The DPJ cabinet may try to justify their policies by arguing for the need to maintain "deterrents" and "international competitiveness." These arguments could lead to a "grand coalition" of Rengo and major parties to promote a consumption tax increase by excluding the Japanese Communist Party,

The only way for us to counter these undemocratic moves will be to develop a nationwide struggle to establish politics ending subservience to the United States and breaking away from the tyranny of financial circles.

I close my speech by expressing hope that participants in this meeting will review the Spring Struggle and work out the unified direction for the summer struggle and that all present here will pledge to do all they can in the upcoming House of Councilors election.

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