Zenroren opposes salary cuts for government employees
-Statement by Zenroren Secretary General ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
May 19, 2011
The Cabinet led by Prime Minister KAN Naoto on May 13 approved a plan of a 10 percent cut in government workers’ salaries, including bonuses. It intends to submit a “salary bill” in the current Ordinary Session of the Diet.
The Democratic Party government is aiming to achieve a 20 percent cut in total labor costs for government employees in line with the ruling party’s “manifesto” put forward in the 2009 House of Representatives general election. The present plan has been discussed within the government since last year based on the promise Prime Minister Kan made as a candidate in the DPJ’s presidential election last year to cut government salaries deeper than National Personnel Authority's annual salary recommendations.
With the basic labor rights restricted for government employees, how absurd it is for the government to submit a bill that disregards National Personnel Authority’s annual salary recommendation, which is supposed to be in return for the restrictions on the labor rights! The present salary bill amounts to violating the Constitution’s Article 28, which guarantees the basic labor rights. But the government is intent on taking an extraordinary step in submitting the bill in view of a bill to reform the civil service system to restore the government workers’ right to collective labor contract. This being impermissible, we demand that the plan of a 10 percent pay cut be withdrawn immediately.
But the problem does not end there. Pay cuts for government workers would also lead to pay cuts for local government employees, teachers, and other public sector-related workers in healthcare and welfare services and private sector workers as well. Already, there is a rumor that a 10 percent cut in central government tax revenues allocated to local governments, which support in the funding of salaries for local government employees, is being considered. Such a pay cut will necessarily exacerbate the already worsening local governments’ fiscal positions.
At a time when the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is dealing a heavy blow to the nation’s economy and people’s livelihoods, pay cuts will discourage consumers from spending money and further slow down the economy. It will go against the urgent need to boost the economy through raising wages and improving the job market.
The reason that the government gives for pay cuts for government workers is the country’s fiscal crunch. But the country’s enormous debt has been accumulated by the successive governments’ policy failures, including the so-called “structural reform” policy, and it is wrong to shift the debt burden onto government employees. And now, in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami the government is trying to cut government workers’ salaries under the pretext of the need to secure funds for post-disaster reconstruction. It is also seeking to raise the consumption tax rate under the name of “reconstruction tax.” We must guard against these government attempts to force the people to pay more.
The task now is for the government to help people improve their living conditions by implementing a policy of wage increase at the bottom, including a substantial minimum wage increase. Zenroren, firmly opposed to the proposed salary cut for government workers, will continue to fight with workers throughout the country, including workers in the disaster-hit areas, to improve public workers’ wages and working conditions and will demand better public services.
Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokko-roren)
May 25, 2011
Government workers’ unions demand government fulfill its responsibility in laying the groundwork for post-disaster reconstruction
A delegation of the Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokko-roren) on May 25 had negotiation with the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The 20-member delegation, led by Kokko-roren Vice President KAWAMURA Yoshinobu and attended by presidents of Kokko-roren member unions, explained how hard workers in the disaster-affected areas are working despite adverse conditions and emphasized that there is no justification for the 10 percent salary cut plan.
In the negotiation Kawamura began by stating, “We have made our case in three previous negotiations since May 13 on the proposed pay cut. But the government has not made any offer that would convince the union. It has become clearer that the proposed pay cut has no justification. We are asking the government to know how the pay cut proposal is perceived by workers on the ground.”
Union representative made the following points:
* Despite a shortage of hands caused by job cuts and cutbacks in hiring, many government workers arrived in disaster-affected areas immediately after the quake and tsunami to help in the repair of an airport and a seaport. Their efforts contributed to a swift recovery from the disaster, paving the way for the transportation of supplies. How is it possible for the government to reward these efforts with a salary cut? It is contrary to humanity.
* Workers at the Meteorological Agency and its local outposts have worked together to provide earthquake information. Some of them lost their families, and others had their homes swept away by tsunami waves. They worked very hard to provide as quickly as possible accurate seismic information as well as general weather information. How can the government reward these efforts with pay cuts? The task now is for the government to help provide secure working conditions.
* Government workers have been sent to the disaster-affected areas from around the country. They have been striving to repair roads to pave the way for transportation of supplies. They slept in the local office without electricity and tap water. Their efforts are comparable to those of Self-Defense Force members’ search and rescue activities. But the government is now trying to cut their salaries in disregard of the National Personnel Authority recommendation. The government’s argument that a pay cut is necessary for the sake of recovery from disaster is groundless. A salary cut would have a negative impact on the economy. The need now is to strengthen the disaster prevention system, and not a pay cut.
* The government’s task is not to cut salaries but to help in the performance of workers. In the event of disaster, members of the Self-Defense Forces and the Coast Guard members are mobilized to the affected areas. In the recent case, ships carrying non-regular port workers as well as regular workers operated near the crippled nuclear power plant. With the offices near a port destroyed, workers are having a hard time in continuing their work. The government’s pay cut proposal will affect the workers’ morale. It is silly for the government to propose a salary cut in such circumstances. Such a pay cut would affect other areas, too, making recovery from the disaster difficult.
* The Hello Work job placement agencies open around the clock, seven days a week. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits and benefits of work-related accident insurance is increasing rapidly. Some government officials argue that the public sentiments should be taken into account. But most child care workers’ wages are subsidized by the local government so that they will be paid in conformity with public workers’ wage levels. Taxi operators are concerned about a drop in the number of taxi users. Public service employees are workers. Their term of employment must not be changed unilaterally by the employer. It is unconstitutional for the government to disregard the National Personnel Authority’s recommendation, a system that compensates restricted labor rights for government workers. It is wrong to cut salaries for government workers over the next three years unilaterally without procedures in place for settling labor disputes. This contradicts the government argument that the negotiation preempts the future establishment of labor-management relations for government workers. It is outrageous for the government to try to impose the pay cut on the grounds that it has reached agreement with another union.
* Government workers in disaster-hit areas are infuriated by the pay cut proposal. They have been in very difficult conditions since their areas were struck by the earthquake and tsunami. Unable to go home, they are forced to take shelter in their offices. Most of them had to continue to work without going out to search for their missing family members. Some workers had their homes swallowed by tsunami waves. Others had their houses flooded and are obliged to live on the second floor of the house. Some workers are assigned to work in disaster-affected areas. All these workers are more or less suffering from mental fatigue. They are concerned about their own future. It is clear that these workers will be more preoccupied with post-disaster reconstruction work. How is it possible for the government to come up with a salary cut plan at this time? Isn't it the task of the government to secure a budget for workers to do their best? Much attention is focused on the activities of Self-Defense Force members. But more attention should be paid to government workers who are doing their jobs side by side with SDF members.
Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry officials responded to the above statements as follows:
Basically, cuts in expenditure had been unavoidable even before the disaster, due to the severe fiscal crunch. After the earthquake and tsunami an extra expenditure is expected, making it urgent to cut expenditures, including personnel costs.
As part of fiscal reconstruction efforts, the government has continued to review the spending by screening the budget requests from ministries and government agencies since last year. In the first supplementary budget, several key Democratic Party policies were reviewed, including child allowance and toll-free expressways.
We are aware that the government is proposing a severe cut and asking you to accept it. We know that workloads are increasing after the quake and tsunami as workers are involved in extra work to recovery from the disaster. We are not saying government workers' salaries are too high or wasteful. We are trying to get over the fiscal crisis by making an effort to reduce personnel costs. It is really tough to ask for your understanding of the proposal as a necessary measure to help in the post-disaster reconstruction. We know very well that workers are forced to endure harsh working conditions. But we must ask you to work harder for less.
The present measure is certainly extraordinary. We are taking this step in order to respond to an extraordinary situation. However, we do not recognize it as illegal. You have rightly pointed out that the measure is not based on National Personnel Authority recommendation. But this step is taken in an extraordinary context, over the next three years. (The current levels will be restored then.) We are also proposing establishing a system to restore the fundamental labor rights for government workers. It will ultimately decided by the legislative body. The government is only asking for your cooperation in order to put the proposal to smooth discussion.
You are saying this is a silly policy. True, we cannot deny possible adverse effects of this pay cut policy. However, cuts would be used as the financial sources for post-disaster reconstruction, contributing to boosting social expenditure on reconstruction. Overall, we do not think it will have negative effect.
Kokko-roren Vice President Kawamura criticized the government officials for lacking recognition that this negotiation was being held under condition that government workers have only limited labor rights. He demanded that the government consider the following three points: (1) If the government is determined to force through the pay cut plan which does not convince Kokko-roren, on the grounds that it has been accepted by another union, and how the government is going to explain the plan to workers who are not unionized; (2) What the government thinks about the absence of any remedy rules in case of breakdown of negotiation; (3) What the government would think of the plan’s possible impacts on employees’ household economy, such as loan payments and on workers on low level managerial positions.