(08-11-2010) People’s Spring Struggle 2011 News 2
Opening speech by DAIKOKU Sakuji at Joint People’s Spring Struggle Committee
I declare the 2011 General Assembly of the Joint People’s Spring Struggle Committee open. Let me say a few words.
After the 2010 Spring Struggle, most of industrial and regional federations are entering a climax of the Autumn Struggle.
The extraordinary session of the Diet under Prime Minister KAN Naoto’s cabinet is underway until December 3. A five-trillion yen supplementary budget is expected to be unveiled tomorrow. It consists of 4,851,300 million yen supplementary budget and items moved up public works projects. Clearly, the government’s stated priority has shifted from the defense of people’s living standards to large public works projects. The bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law has been carried on from the previous Diet session, but no deliberation schedule has been set on the bill. I would like to share with you the determination to expose all aspects of the temporary agency workers’ working conditions and their abuse before the Diet as well as publicly and get the a genuinely effective revision enacted in the current session of the Diet.
On October 24, a House of Representatives by-election was held in Hokkaido’s number 5 district, and Liberal Democratic Party candidate MACHIMURA Nobutaka was elected. This result likely will put the Democratic Party in an increasingly tough position as the main ruling party. Nevertheless, the Kan Cabinet, which stands for the “deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance and promotion of the structural reform policy,” follows the same direction as the LDP did in being subservient to the United States and dutiful in serving the interest of corporate domination of the nation’s economy. As most opposition parties are coming to act as ruling parties, Japanese politics will be increasingly held in check. Most parties, including the Your Party, are using the populist call for “cuts in wasteful expenditure” to cut personnel costs for government employees and the number of House of Representatives seats. We must be alert against the possible advent of authoritarianism.
With the value of the yen soaring rapidly, public attention is focused on whether it will reach the record 79.75 yen against the dollar 15 years ago. This phenomenon is seen from different angles. Some say we should not fuss over this trend on the grounds that prices in the United States are up 35 percent from 15 years ago; that while prices are also rising in European countries almost at the same rate, wages are increasing even faster. Others points out that the OECD says the yen should appreciate 114 against the dollars based on purchasing power disparity. This means that the actual value of the yen is 30 percent higher than its true value.
In Japan, while the economy and wages have stopped growing, the currency value remains unchanged. The need now is for politics to assist in reducing the adverse impact of the high yen on small- and medium-sized exporters and in stopping the arbitrary cuts in unit prices paid to suppliers. The main cause of the rising value of the yen is the vicious circle of attempts to increase international competitiveness by using cheap labor and unit price cuts, which in turn leads to a rise in the value of the yen. In order to fundamentally end the high yen spiral, it is necessary to take measures to increase personal purchasing power within the country, measures to revitalize the nation’s economy. Raising people’s power to buy should be through increasing wages, including the substantial increase in the minimum wage, capital investment in the public needs, improvement in social security programs, and revitalization of the local economies. These measures will help turn the nation’s economy into one of putting emphasis on an economy driven by domestic demand. I think this is the way to a sustainable society. Without this change of economic direction, we will not be able to get out of the negative spiral. We must pursue this economic policy change tenaciously.
Recently, the National Tax Agency released statics on private sector salaries shows the average annual salary for private sector workers in 2009 was 4.05 million yen, down 237 thousand yen (5.5 percent) from the previous year. Equally, the average salary for both the private and public sectors dropped 620 thousand yen to 4.67 million yen. Gross pay fell 30 trillion yen from 222 trillion yen in 1998. By contrast, large corporations capitalized at more than one billion yen have increased their internal reserves to 229 trillion from 147 trillion yen 10 years ago. These internal reserves would not be used to raise wages or assure subcontracting suppliers payment of reasonable unit prices. In other words, such internal reserves would not help boost domestic demand. These large corporations are said to have 52 trillion yen in cash reserves. The fact of the matter would be that they “have plenty of money in hand, which is of no use.”
In the 2010 Spring Struggle, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) decided not to demand a basic pay raise in order to maintain the automatic annual raise built into the pay scale. In a published comment Rengo said it is generally satisfied with the outcome, even though Japanese businesses, mainly large corporations, had a V-shaped turnaround. Mass media criticized the Rengo stance saying it’s silly to not seize this opportunity to demand a basic pay raise. Needless to say, it had a negative impact on wage talks at smaller companies. Rengo makes it clear that it will take basically the same stance in the next year's Spring Struggle.
However, the large corporations have added 11 trillion yen to their internal reserves as they continue to post surplus and their executives are having a hard time trying to work out ways to use the money. Nevertheless, Rengo seems to be reluctant even to recommend the large corporations to use the money to raise wages and increase unit prices of supplies.
The question here is what we should do this in dealing with this problem. The structural reform policy and deregulation have increased poverty and widened income disparities. It also increased working poor. Nothing has been done to resolve these problems. The number of contingency workers has grown to 18 million, and about 11 million people are now working poor. The unemployment rate remains as high as 5 percent. Under these circumstances, if we are to rebuild people's living conditions by eradicating poverty and reducing economic inequalities, we must demand a wage increase for all workers and job security. We will promote industrial and regional concerted action on this issue.
I hope that the 2011 Spring Struggle Plan will be further elaborated in the discussion assembly on November 25-26. Although the Joint Spring Struggle Committee consists of unions mainly at smaller private sector enterprises and in the public sector, we will primarily persistently pursue a wage increase for all workers. Secondly, we will explain in a manner that would be understood by everyone how we can improve the Japanese economy and workers’ living conditions, and demand that the government, companies, and local governments carry out a bottom-up wage increase and a substantial increase in the minimum wage and establish a law or ordinance requiring government/public contracts to ensure minimum wage levels. We will develop a visible and audible struggle to win a wider public support.
Thirdly, we will work in cooperation with various organizations in calling for the abolition of the discriminatory medical insurance system against the elderly aged 75 and over, the establishment of a minimum pension system, revitalization of agriculture and locally promoted industries, improvement in social services, and measures to increase domestic demand.
We will demand that the government move to cut the military budget and the so-called “sympathy budget” for the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan as its expiration approaches. We will also demand that large corporations and a handful of the wealthy people pay their fair share of the tax burden.
I would also like to call on you to take active part in the effort to create conditions to get IHA Yoichi elected on November 28 as Okinawa Prefecture Governor.
We will do our utmost to create waves that will lead to victory in the next Spring Struggle and in the simultaneous local elections.
I want to express my hope that you will have pro-active discussion in this assembly amid an autumn-year end struggles and a parliamentary struggle with a view to developing a powerful Spring Struggle next year. With this I conclude my opening statement.