Day of Action launching the 2012 Spring Struggle
Let us force large corporations to use a part of their internal reserves to benefit the people!
Let us win secure jobs, wage increase, and improvement in social services to boost the economy by increasing domestic demand and to rebuild the disaster-hit areas!
Oppose Japan’s participation in the TPP; stop the plan to increase the consumption and force ordinary people to pay more taxes! Japan’s dependence on nuclear power must end!
On January 17, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee, joined by the Tokyo Spring Struggle Committee, held a day of action to declare the start of the 2012 Spring Struggle.
About 1,000 people from around the Tokyo Metropolitan areas as well as from various federations took part in the action.
Participants converged on the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in the morning, and held a lunch-hour demonstration through the Marunouchi business district.
In the afternoon, they gathered in front of the Business Federation (Keidanren) carrying placards and banners in various colors. Their demand for “wage increase to bring about economic recovery” and for “large corporations to use a part of their internal reserves for workers,” and opposition to a consumption tax increase resounded through the winter sky.
Expansion of domestic demand is essential for Japan’s economic and social revitalization
ITO Jun’ichi, a board member of the Tokyo Spring Struggle Committee, spoke on behalf of the organizers at a morning rally in front of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. Pointing out that wages are declining, that the number of contingent workers is increasing, and that poverty and income inequality are expanding, he said, “The trade union movement is in a critical phase of their struggle.” He called for a struggle to stop the consumption tax increase that the government is planning as part of the so-called combined social security and tax reforms as well as the struggle to win wage increase and a raise in the minimum wage.
ODAGAWA Yoshikazu, the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee secretary general, who is also Zenroren secretary general, proposed a series of immediate actions, such as visits to small- and medium-sized businesses, requests to local governments and other local initiatives. He said the concerted action for a society in which the 99 percent can feel free of anxieties, which will take place from March 13-15, will mark the culmination of this year’s Spring Struggle throughout the country.
Workers encircling Keidanren tell business leaders not to be silly, demanding large corporations use a part of their international reserves to increase wages
After the lunch-hour demonstration in the Marunouchi business district, about 600 participants from Zenroren and the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee assembled at Keidanren headquarters.
DAIKOKU Sakuji, a member of the board of the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee and Zenroren president, spoke on behalf of the organizers. He criticized Keidanren for turning its back on workers’ demand for base salary increase citing the unusually strong yen and the need to devote resources to post-disaster reconstruction as the pretext. He called for the Spring Struggle to be developed to protect the standard of living by winning a wage increase and a minimum wage increase, and making public contracts acceptable to workers in terms of wages. He pointed out that the large corporations have amassed a total of 266 trillion yen in internal reserves and that they have 60 trillion yen in cash on hand. He said that, while demanding that the large corporations release a part of their internal reserves to pay more for supplies to workers and small- and medium-sized suppliers, the workers must fight to stop the government’s reckless policies: Japan’s participation in the TPP free trade agreements that will destroy Japan’s industrial base from its foundation, a consumption tax increase, and a cut in the number of the House of Representatives proportional representation seats.
Five people spoke to express their determination.
All-Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers’ Unions (JMIU) Secretary General MIKI Ryoichi said that salaries have declined by more than 10 percent from a peak in 1997, seriously exacerbating the workers’ livelihoods. “We will take the needs of union members seriously. We must never give up pursuing a wage increase no matter how difficult it is,” he added.
Fukushima Federation of Trade Unions (Fukushima Ken-roren) President SAITO Miharu severely criticized the government for its failure to appropriately deal with the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Referring to Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko’s declaration that the nuclear disaster is now under control, he said, “The crippled reactors continue to release radiation while the actual conditions of those reactors remain unknown. People who have been forced to leave their home towns do not know when then can return home again.” After all, he said, the prime minister has declared that the crisis is under control because he wanted to evade the government responsibility to pay compensation for damages and give nuclear plant exports the green light.” He stressed the need to break up the “community profiting from nuclear power generation” and pointed out that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company are held responsible for making complete compensation for damage and losses from the nuclear disaster, the removal of radioactive substances and the decommissioning of the rippled reactors.
OKUYAMA Taiki, a member of the Executive Committee of the Sony Labor Union Sendai branch, drove from Miyagi Prefecture to participate in the day of action together with his friends. He criticized Sony Corporation for carrying out massive dismissals of contingent workers using the March 11 disaster as the pretext, while sending an executive member to the government’s panel on post-disaster reconstruction. Referring to the fact that more than 30 thousand people commit suicides each year in Japan, he drew attention to the fact that the percentage of people killing themselves in their 30s and 40s is increasing. He said, “Large corporations are amassing their internal reserves at the cost of workers lives. Let us demand that the large corporations use a part of their internal reserves to benefit the public and improve our livelihoods.”
A member of the Japan Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Unions (Jichiroren) expressed determination to do all he can to heighten the level of public opinion demanding jobs, better wages and expansion of domestic demand.”
A participant from the Telecommunication Industry Workers’ Unions (Tsushinroso) said, “We will stop the massive corporate restructuring, which forces workers to retire at 50 and rehire them a lower wage workers and which drastically increases the number of contingent workers. Let us work together to demand living wages.”
After the rally, participants chanted slogans like “Use a part of corporate internal reserves to increase wages and jobs” and “We will stop a consumption tax increase!”
Statement on the Start of the 2012 Spring Struggle by Zenroren President Daikoku Sakuji
We are entering the main part of the Spring Struggle for 2012. Keidanren (Japan’s business federation) is pushing for a society that gives priority to international competitiveness and bigger profits under the pretext of the need to deal with the strong yen, the financial crisis and a “swift post-disaster reconstruction.”
What the Japanese people newly learned from the earthquake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan on March 11 last year was the importance of solidarity and close ties among people.
People are realizing the need to break with the profit-first economy and the society driven by neo-liberalism, the economy that places importance on “efficiency”, and the principle of “self-responsibility”. In particular, the call for “self-responsibility” is what the business circles are emphasizing in responding to labor’s demands in the Spring Struggle.
The business circles are changing the wage system into one of paying them according to each worker’s ability or achievement. This is why they are turning their back on the unions’ demands for base pay increase. They are even considering changing or abolishing the present annual pay raise system. We must reject such outrageous attempt of the business circles and protect jobs and living standards by developing our Spring Struggle to win the various immediate demands of workers.
First, we must look at increasing unemployment among young people and part-time and other contingent workers. The task now is for us to struggle to reduce unemployment and improve those contingent workers’ wages and working conditions.
Amid the global economic crisis, increasing unemployment and poverty as well as widening income inequality are the most serious sources of concern. In particular, the unemployment rate among young people 24 years old and younger is 22 percent in EU countries, 18 percent in the United States, and nearly 8 percent in Japan. Many EU countries provide safety net and job training programs for the unemployed. Unemployment rates are relatively higher in these countries because the use of cheap labor is restricted. In Japan, by contrast, only 20 percent of people who were thrown out of work receive unemployment insurance benefits. The principles of equal pay for equal work and equal treatment are not established in Japan. More than 45 percent of young people are estimated to be either unemployed or potentially unemployed.
Income inequality is expanding considerably. In the United States where the anger of the 99 percent has erupted over top one percent's share of wealth, which fell 7 percent from 10 percent during several decades after the end of World War II but rose to above 20 percent in the 2000s. In Japan, the top one percent had a share of more than 20 percent before WWII, but after the war's end, it was reduced to around 7 percent due to the dissolution of zaibatsu and other postwar measures. But in 2005, it rose to 9.2 percent. By contrast, the number of working poor has exceeded 10 million. No one can deny the fact that poverty is increasing and the income gap expanding.
Keidanren insists that "national income growth will not encourage people to spend more money because they will try to save more." It has been said that Japanese people have high propensity to save money. This is because social programs are very inadequate in Japan and because many people feel uncertain about their post-retirement years. Today, the average saving of Japanese people has fallen to 8.8 million yen from a peak at 10.08 million yen in 2006. This means that many people reach into their saving to make ends meet. It is clear that falling purchasing power is contributing to the country's economic slowdown. In order to revitalize the Japanese economy, we must develop the struggle to bottom up wages, increase the minim wage, and win an advance in proper public contracts that assure workers certain level of wages and working conditions. These struggles are essential for realizing change toward expanding domestic demand.
Secondly, we must work to heighten public opinion opposing corporate tyranny. The task is to force large corporations to release a part of their internal reserves, give workers a pay increase, improve prices paid to suppliers, and stabilize employment. Large corporations continue to be high-handed. Large corporations capitalized at one billion yen or more have increased their internal reserves to 266 trillion yen from 257 trillion yen in just one year. The amount of their cash on hand has reached 6o trillion yen. They continue to have abundant money. Nevertheless, Keidanren uses the need for international competitiveness and for swift post-disaster reconstruction to justify their demand for lower corporate tax rates, cuts in personnel costs, adverse revision of the labor laws on working hours, the use of temporary agency workers, and Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangements.
Thirdly, we must stop the major adverse reforms of taxes and social services. Prime Minister Noda used his New Year message to declare his firm determination to have the Ordinary Session of the Diet, due to begin on January 24, enact salary cuts for public service employees, a cut in the number of Diet members and a consumption tax increase. However, if the government really cuts salaries for public employees, it will have negative effects on the Spring Struggle and further weaken local economies. It will also go against the direction to recover the economy by increasing domestic demand. The mass media are calling for a consumption tax increase. Public opinion surveys show that a majority of the public is against the tax hike. Yet, many people are still under the influence of the mass media’s calls. We must increase study and publicity campaigns to heighten public awareness to end the present tax code that cuts corporate taxes and gives the wealthy preferential treatment.
Fourthly, the struggle to promote post-disaster reconstruction and the struggle to abandon nuclear power generation are crucial. People in disaster-hit areas need government assistance in order to restore what they had in daily lives. Many residents are forced to evacuate their hometown and live outside of the prefecture, due to the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With the moves to resume reactor operation after the checkups picking up throughout the country, many young people and women are taking part in the struggle to make post-disaster reconstruction that is truly in the interest of the victims. They are also participating in the struggle to eliminate nuclear power plants. The struggle against Japan’s participation in the TPP free trade agreements is developing rapidly. This year’s Spring Struggle will be combined with these struggles.
It is said that dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election could come anytime soon. We will combine the Spring Struggle with the political struggle through increasing common actions, at both the national and local levels. We will constantly send our message to all workers, including contingent workers, as well as to small- and medium-sized business operators so that we can together hold a successful days of national action from March 13-15. We will make our Spring Struggle reach out to as many people as possible.