We protest against salary cuts for government employees
Statement by Secretary General ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
February 29, 2012
The House of Councilors on February 29 passed a bill to cut salaries for government employees over two years from April 1 (the first day of FY 2012) by an average of 7.8 percent, in addition to a 0.23 percent cut, which had been recommended by the National Personnel Authority to be carried out from April 1, 2011. The bill was enacted into law the same day amid public worker-bashing. The legislation will drive local governments into competition for lower salaries. We protest about the law being enacted without strictly democratic parliamentary discussion in conformity with rules provided by the Constitution and relevant laws.
Concerning talks held between the Democratic Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party on a bill to cut government employees’ salaries, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) expressed its position on the issue in its February 7 letter to all political parties. The letter pointed out that (1) parliamentary discussion on a bill to cut government employees’ salaries at the time of the Spring Struggle wage negotiations will have an adverse effect on domestic demand and other aspects of the nation’s economy and that (2) the Diet had failed to hold deliberations on such important issues in the relationship between parliamentary discussion on this issue and the National Personnel Authority’s wage recommendation, which sets the standards for determining salaries for public workers who are allowed to exercise limited workers’ rights. The Diet actually failed to organize debates on the bill in real terms. The rules of law were overridden by closed-door discussions between some parties.
Leadership by politicians has been called for in the past several years. But what’s happening is prevalence of contempt of rules of law and constitutional principles. As a consequence, the citizens’ fundamental human rights are often undervalued. In particular, the number of cases of flagrant violations of fundamental human rights of public employees is increasing. Public employees are citizens and workers at the same time. Their rights are infringed on by government authorities. Osaka City’s survey of employees’ thought is one example.
Zenroren is concerned that the enactment of the salary cut law for the government workers will only exacerbate conditions of the disenfranchised workers and discourage them from working hard and that it will lower the quality of administrative services.
During the deliberation of the bill, the government insisted that salary cuts overriding the National Personnel Authority’s recommendation are not unconstitutional, because agreement on the cuts had been reached between the government and some public employees’ unions. Now that the government tries to use the so-called “labor-management agreement” to justify the substantial salary cuts, it is necessary for the Diet to immediately begin discussing the government-submitted bills concerning labor relations for public workers so that they will be enacted as early as possible after improving some provisions. Again, we protest over the enactment of the salary cuts by separating it from these bills and demand the earliest possible correction.
Noda Cabinet must resign to take responsibility for abandoning employer responsibility
The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)’s Commission on the Public Sector issued a statement on February 29to criticize the enactment of the bill to cut public employees’ salaries.
A bill to cut government workers’ salaries became law after being approved by the House of Councilors on February 29. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party voted against the bill. An average of 7.8 percent cut will be imposed over two years from April 1, 2012, in addition to a 0.23 percent cut, which the National Personnel Authority had recommended to be carried out from April 2011.
The salary cut legislation comes immediately before a climax of this year’s labor talks in the 2012 Spring Struggle. This means that a downward spiral on salaries will be accelerated not only in the public sector but also in the private sector. It will necessarily lead to an economic slowdown. More importantly, it will be used by Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko’s cabinet as the springboard for rushing to a consumption tax increase. We firmly reject such pay cut legislation.
In the Democratic Party’s election “Manifesto” calling for a 20 percent cut in the labor cost for public service employees, Former Prime Minister KAN Naoto’s cabinet sought to further cut salaries for government workers in disregard of National Personnel Authority recommendations on the pretext of the worsening fiscal crunch. After the March 11, 2011, massive earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, the government began to argue for pay cuts ostensibly to ensure a budget for post-disaster reconstruction. Prime Minister Noda, who succeeded Kan, has invented still another pretext: the need is for public officials and employees to impose cutbacks on themselves before asking the public to support a consumption tax increase. The government-submitted pay cut bill had not been put to parliamentary discussion despite the various maneuvers by the government. This is why the government left the matter to consultations between the ruling Democratic Party and opposition Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties. After this, the government submitted in the Diet a pay cut bill that embraces most of the Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties’ demands. The Diet approved the bill without getting into in-depth discussions.
We lodge an indignant protest against the government for abandoning employer responsibility. We also denounce the ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties for making a closed-door deal to get the bill enacted in defiance of strong opposition by the workers.
Sequence of events shows that the enactment of the pay cut law in many ways infringes on the constitutional rights of public service employees. The government submitted the bill to the Diet only after it reached agreement with some labor unions while leading to a negotiation breakdown with the Zenroren-affiliated Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokko-roren). The legislation is a product of back-door deals between the ruling and some opposition parties without listening to public workers. If members of the Diet are allowed to determine wage levels and working conditions by enacting laws at their will just by submitting a bill to the Diet, public service workers will be left disenfranchised.
We are not slaves of those in power. We are public service employee with constitutional rights. We are proud of being public servants. We demand that the Diet immediately begin deliberating the already submitted bills to restore public workers’ right to collective bargaining for contracts, and that the basic labor rights be restored to public workers.
It’s been almost one year since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan took a large number of lives. We, public service employees, are renewing our determination to continue to be at the forefront of long-time post-disaster reconstruction efforts and relief of the disaster victims. This is the position on which we firmly oppose the Noda Cabinet’s attempt to accomplish the so-called the combined reform of social services and taxation and administrative reform, which includes cutbacks on public services as well as jobs. The Noda Cabinet is refusing to fulfill its responsibility as the employer of public workers and trying to force the public to endure unbearable hardships arising from a consumption tax increase and adverse reforms of social services. We demand that the Noda Cabinet step down without delay.
Six months have elapsed since the pay cut bill was introduced, and no deliberation has been held. This confirms how unreasonable the pay cut bill was. At the same time, this is an important achievement we made in the struggle with many people supporting our call for the expansion of public services and jobs. Zenroren-affiliated public sector unions are determined to do all they can to help intensify nationwide solidarity in the 2012 Spring Struggle, to protect the livelihoods and the rights of the workers and the people.