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We protest against bonus cuts for national government employees.
Workers need pay raise to improve their livelihoods

Kurosawa Koichi
the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
August 10, 2021

The National Personnel Authority (NPA) today reported to the government and the National Diet (parliament) its recommendation on (1) the salaries of national public service workers and (2) personnel management. It decided to keep the salaries unchanged on the grounds that there is little discrepancy in salary between public and private sectors, with the public sector 19 yen less, or 0.00 percent. It recommended that annual bonuses of central government workers in fiscal 2021 be lowered by 0.15 month of salary.

This year’s NPA recommendation is the second in a row to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Although many public sector workers are working hard under a state of emergency to save the lives and protect the livelihoods of people, the recommendation failed to meet their expectations for higher wages. It does not reflect their actual working and living conditions. In addition, it recommends cutbacks on the annual bonuses for part-time public service workers, who are paid less than permanent workers. Overall, the recommendation does not meet the acute needs arising from the workplace. We also strongly protest about it. Salary cuts for public sector workers are unacceptable as they will pour cold water on not only workers at workplaces whose wages are determined based on the public service workers wages but on the next year’s Spring Struggle.

We think that the report on personnel management, which includes its opinion on expansion of childcare leave, working hours and paid leave, as well as improvement of treatment of part-time workers, deserves our recognition as it responds to the needs of the workplace by calling on the government to consider creating an infertility treatment leave system, improving the paid leave system for part-time workers, and paying costs of teleworking.

Regional minimum wage councils are currently considering their respective minimum wage levels based on the benchmark recommendation made earlier by the Central Minimum Wage Council. Starting October 1, revised regional minimum wages will take effect. The weighted average is expected to be 930 yen (about 8.5 dollars) or more per hour. The national average of high school graduates’ starting pay, which is 897 yen (about 9 dollars) per hour, will be lower than the average minimum wage. It will also be lower than the minimum wage of Tokyo and 10 other prefectures. Arguing that the minimum wage law is not applied to public service employees, the government and the NPA say that there is nothing wrong even if their wages are lower than the minimum wage, leaving the extremely low starting pay for high school graduates as it is.

The task now is for the government to help revitalize the nation’s economy by raising wages. It is particularly important for the government to take measures to revitalize local economies, which is linked to public service workers’ wages. It is also necessary to redress intraregional disparities of public service employees as well as minimum wages.

With coronavirus infections spreading, frontline workers of public health and medical care are enduring endless long hour work and extremely heavy workload. They are in such harsh conditions that they often think of quitting their jobs or are forced to choose between life and death. Public service workers are in trouble not only at public health or medical care workplaces but also at all public service offices, including the benefit payment offices. They are like shortening their lives or are forced to devote themselves to their work by sacrificing family and everything.

The role of public services is drawing a lot of attention in society. Zenroren is organizing an “emergency action to save lives” demanding the government’s responses. It has called for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be canceled. But the Tokyo Games were opened despite strong opposition and ended the other day. At a time when the cases of the coronavirus are surging endlessly, improving healthcare systems to save people’s lives should be given top priority rather than holding the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Zenroren will devote all its energies to the “emergency action to save live” and organize even greater efforts from the workplace and local communities to win the establishment of a uniform national minimum wage system and to get the minimum wage raised to 1,500 yen (about 13.5 dollars). It will conduct a survey to know what union members need in preparation for a fight to win a substantial wage increase the next year’s Spring Struggle.

With the upcoming House of Representatives election in mind, we will continue to call for political change to protect people’s lives and livelihoods and strive in the workplace and local communities to let the Constitution guide as we fight to win our demands.


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