Zenroren unions campaigning for 2013 minimum wage increase
Current situation relating to the minimum wage issue
Appointment of members of the minimum wage councils is problematic in many prefectures; big delay in the selection at Central Minimum Wage Council
Selection of minimum wages council members is underway in most prefectures. The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) has consistently been excluded from the selection. This is why the International Labor Organization (ILO)’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions has asked the Japanese government if it has ever considered selecting labor members from Zenroren. Thus, this year’s selection of members of the minimum wages councils are taking place as Japan faces growing international criticism. There have been no reports on equitable appointments being made. Again, the government seems likely to discriminate against particular unions in violation of freedom of association, at both the central and regional levels.
(*)In Japan, the minimum wage is determined in each of the 47 prefectures. The prefectural labor director appoints members of the regional (prefectural) minimum wages council, and the Health ,Labor and Welfare Ministry (HLWM) appoints members of the Central Minimum Wages Council.
The Central Minimum Wages Council earlier hinted at selecting its new members at the beginning of April. It did not do it after the May holidays. It has nothing to announce even in mid May. The HLWM is persistently refusing to explain the reason for the delay in the appointments, although it seems ready to hold deliberation on the benchmark for determining regional minimum wages as scheduled.
Prime Minister in the Diet says, “I will make efforts to raise the minimum wages”
Prime Ministe ABE Shinzo has gradually become in favor of raising minimum wages. In this year’s Spring Struggle, we have said, “Abenomics is weakening the yen and causing price increases, making the financial position of small- and medium-sized businesses and our living conditions more difficult.” We have pointed out that despite the Prime Minister’s request to the business sector that worker compensation be raised, workers have yet to get a pay raise and are demanding that the government fulfill its responsibility for raising the minimum wage. We have requested members of the Diet and concerned ministries to do their part to increase the minimum wage. These activities are producing results.
At a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting on February 20, Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors DAIMON Mikishi criticized the Abe administration for shifting to pro-inflation policies. Daimon said these policies may undermine people’s livelihoods and proposed that the government work to substantially raise the minimum wages while extending support to small- and medium-sized businesses at the same time. Pointing out that foreign countries are taking sufficient measures to help small- and medium-sized businesses in substantially raising the minimum wage, he said that a 200-yen increase in the minimum wage was accompanied by 880 billion yen tax breaks in 5 years in the United States, and that employers’ share of social insurance contributions were reduced by 2,280 billion yen in France. He said that by contrast, in Japan, the cut was only 5 billion yen under the previous Democratic Party administration and that the administration of Prime Minister Abe is offering even smaller measures. He called for the government to make a substantial policy shift on this issue.
Prime Minister Abe responded to Daimon by stating, “We will make efforts to raise the minimum wages by considering ways to support small- and medium-sized businesses and discussing with labor and employers.” Media said: “The Prime Minister says he will make efforts to help increase minimum wages.” Some of them said that the government is expected to set forth measures to help small- and medium-sized businesses and a raise in the minimum wage at the same time. This shows that it is possible to change the government’s stance if we raise our voices and act.
With the next House of Councilors election slated for July, the government is obliged to pay attention to what the public is thinking about politics. So, it is possible for us to move and change the situation. Let us use the Day of Central Action on May 28 (day of action for the minimum wage, stage one) and other local actions on the minimum wage visiting local political party offices and lawmakers. “Let us demand that politics take a lead in substantially raising the minimum wage.” “Stop the labor law big bang that gives employers freedom to dismiss workers and force workers work longer hours.” “Withdraw the plan to adversely revise the livelihood protection system.” We will make these demands heard inside and outside the Diet.
May 28 Day of Action for Minimum Wage Increase
Stop legislation to give employers freedom to dismiss workers! Substantially raise the minimum wage! Improve public sector workers’ salaries!
On May 28, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee, and the Tokyo Joint Spring Struggle Committee, held a day of action for the minimum wage. The slogans were: Stop legislation to give employers freedom to dismiss workers; Oppose labor law deregulation; Establish rules of employment for all workers; Substantially raise the minimum wage; and Improve public sector workers’ salaries. The first stage of minimum wage action began with an early morning publicity action, followed by action in front of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry (HLWM) and the National Personnel Authority. After a rally at Hibiya Public Hall, attended by about 1,000 people from around the country, participants held a march in demonstration to the Diet. Some participants visited members of the Diet.
Summer struggle begins
Action in front of the HLWM and the National Personnel Authority started at 11:00 am. A Representative of the National Joint Spring Struggle Committee spoke to the participants. Stressing that the weakening yen and price rises caused by Abenomics are having adverse impacts on small- and medium-sized businesses and that wage increase is essential for ending deflation, he called for a salary increase for public workers, cancellation of work to adversely revise the livelihood protection system, improvement of contingent workers’ working conditions, and opposition to adverse labor law reform.
INOUE Hisashi, vice secretary general of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), gave the report on the political situation. He said, “The Liberal Democratic Party has made clear that its election platform for the upcoming House of Councilors election will call for turning Japan into the easiest country for corporations to do business. No way! We will launch a struggle to definitely pass a verdict on it.” Inoue spoke about the details of the adverse revision of the labor laws that is being discussed by the government council on regulatory reform.
Four participants from industrial or regional federations expressed their determination.
A representative of Zenroren’s commission on the public sector spoke about the latest situation relating to public workers’ salaries. He said, “Let us fight for wages that allow workers, in public and private sectors alike, to live a decent life, wages that can be a driving force for rebuilding the Japanese economy.
A representative of the National Federation of Consumers’ Cooperatives Workers’ Unions (Seikyo-roren) said that in Shizuoka Prefecture, 3 people recommended by the Zenrore-affiliated Shizuoka Prefectural Federation of Trade Unions were not appointed to the prefectural council on the minimum wage. No reason was given for the exclusion. He said, “Japan is in crisis today. In times of crisis, it is necessary for the minimum wage council to include labor members who can speak for workers on the panel.”
A representative of the Shizuoka Prefectural Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Unions (Jichiroren) spoke about the growing number of contingent workers in workplaces of local governments. He said his union will strive to realize the serious demands for improved treatment of contingent workers regarding wages and the right to holiday and for opposition to unilateral termination of contract with casual workers.
A representative of the Saitama Prefectural Federation of Trade Unions said, “We must change politics in order to achieve our demands. In the upcoming Upper House election, we will support candidates who will work to realize our demands.