July 28 Central Day of Action for victory in summer campaign
The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), joined by the National Spring Struggle Joint Committee and the Tokyo Spring Struggle Joint Committee, held a day of action on July 28 in Tokyo to help step up the struggle for the immediate demands.
About 1,500 people took part in the action to stop the attacks employers launched on jobs and livelihoods using difficulties caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Their demands included: post-disaster reconstruction that puts residents first; an end to the nation’s dependence on nuclear energy; an increase in the minimum wage; improvement in public service employees’ wages; and a government budget that puts emphasis on local communities and people’s livelihoods.
Participants visited Diet members and ministries, attended a rally at Hibiya Amphitheater, and marched in demonstration through the upscale Ginza shopping district.
In the rally, Zenroren President DAIKOKU Sakuji spoke on behalf of the organizers, followed by Zenroren Secretary General ODAGAWA Yoshikazu giving the report on the political situation regarding the workers’ pressing demands.
Representatives of four organizations spoke on their respective struggles.
“Government workers have been striving around the clock in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to defend the survivors’ safety and livelihoods. This proves how important public workers are. We stress that improving and expanding public services is essential for the earliest possible post-disaster reconstruction and local reconstruction. We denounce the bill to cut salaries for public service employees because such a measure will have adverse effects on the private sector” The Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions” (Kokko-roren).
“The Central Minimum Wage Council has announced the benchmark for the amount of the minimum wage for each region. The proposed increases range between 4 yen and 1 yen per hour, which are so insufficient. We are all indignant. Even if one has a job, that one is unable to make money to live a decent life. A substantial minimum wage increase is absolutely necessary. Honest small- and medium-sized firms wish to pay decent wages to their employees. The government should help them. We will continue to fight for a substantial increase in the minimum wage and against salary cuts for the public service employees.” (Zenroren - Zenkoku-ippan).
“Nothing effective has been done to bring the nuclear disaster under control. Meanwhile, radioactive contamination is spreading. The suicide rate has increased 20 percent from last year. Children on summer vacation are forced to evacuate their homes. How many of them will be back to school in September? Even though school grounds were cleaned up and schools are allowed to open their windows, the temperature remain 35 degrees Celsius or higher. Electric fans are being used to cool down classrooms. No decision has been made whether to install air conditioner” (Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Trade Unions).
“Since the March 11 disaster, we have been raising donations, sending in volunteers as well as supplies to quake-hit areas. The Aichi fedeeration donated a fishing boat to our members in a disaster-hit area. Visiting quake-stricken areas, we have also received new members to our organization. Rebuilding the fishing ports is an urgent need so that we can land catches of fish. We also have to rebuild fish-processing plants. We want the distribution system to be rebuilt. Without getting the local industries moving again, retailers cannot begin their business (National Federation of Producers and Traders Associations).
Only 1 yen increase in minimum wage recommended by Central Minimum Wage Council for 38 regions
-Struggle to win larger minimum wage increase begins
During the third round of day of action for minimum wage increase, held in front of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on July 28, in protest of the Central Minimum Wage Council’s inadequate recommendation of minimum wage increase for each region, Zenroren’s Research Bureau Director ITO Keiichi gave the following report on the present situation relating to the issue of the minimum wage.
The Central Minimum Wage Council on July 27 submitted to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry its recommendation on the revised minimum wage for each region (prefecture) for 2011. The Council’s report divides the 47 prefectures into four groups (A〜D). The Council recommends an increase of 4 yen for Group A and 1 yen for Groups 1 to 3. Recommendation of such small changes would certainly help widen the income inequalities. Regarding nine prefectures, where the current rates of minimum wage are below the level of public livelihood assistance, the Council asked 4 of them to eliminate the discrepancies, but deferred such recommendation for the others, including quake hit Miyagi Prefecture.
During the deliberation in the Council meeting, members representing labor insisted that the current rates of minimum wage are behind the need to cover the minimum cost of living, contributing to a further increase in working poor and demanded an increase to a level that would secure a safe and stable life for everyone. However, the Council members representing the business sector insisted that raising the minimum wage would threaten the existence of businesses because of the economic fallout of the east Japan earthquake and tsunami and its impact on small- and medium-sized businesses. They firmly opposed raising the minimum wage and insisted on a zero growth on the grounds that they even believe it might be appropriate to lower the current rates.
Last year, the government held a “dialogue for employment strategy” with employer and labor representatives. The participants agreed to ensure that the country’s regional minimum wage rate will be raised to at least 800 yen per hour as soon as possible and aim to raise the national average to 1,000 yen by 2020, as strategy to raise the minimum wage and help bottom up small- and medium-sized businesses. This year’s recommendation goes against the call for a substantial increase in the minimum wage, which is now a national consensus. It even backburners the agreed goals. The urgent need now is to raise the minimum wage to encourage people to spend money and get the economy moving again. This is also important for the rebuilding of small- and medium-sized businesses and the economy in general in disaster-hit areas. It is out of the question that the Council recommends a raise of only 1 yen per hour for more than half of the regions. We are now at the start of the renewed struggle for a substantial increase in the minimum wage. Let us step up action!