National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
25th Regular Convention
July 21-23, 2010, Tokyo
Zenroren Plan of Action 2010-2011(Excerpts)
Part III: The situation surrounding Japanese workers
1. With poverty increasing visibly among workers and people in general, our task is becoming clearer
(1) The total annual compensation for workers has been declining since 1997, mainly due to an increase in the number of contingent workers and an increase in working poor as well as declines in the annual income of regular full-time workers, including seasonal bonuses.
Meanwhile, Japanfs economic growth rate measured by GDP between 1997 and 2007 was only 0.7 percent. This can be seen in sharp contrast with other capitalist countries, including Canada (73.7 percent), the U.S. (69.0 percent) and Britain (68.5 percent). Economic growth in these countries made it possible to raise workers wages.
This shows that a stable increase in domestic demand centering around wage increase is the key to making economic growth possible.
(2) A handful of large corporations capitalized at 1 billion yen or more amassed 241 trillion yen in so-called ginternal reservesh in fiscal year 2008, a sharp increase from 143 trillion yen in fiscal 1998.
Large corporations are increasing the use of temporary and other contingent workers but the labor share of income is declining. They keep profits they gained through cutting labor costs and exports as their internal reserves. This tendency is growing even after the outbreak of the current economic crisis.
Large corporations have used their profits to give shareholders more dividends and to increase their capital investments. Clearly, they are playing a part in global money games and responsible for the ensuing financial crisis. Even the Group of 20 Countries and the United Nations have come to use various occasions to discuss the need to strengthen control of large corporations' selfish economic activities.
Given these developments, we should pay even greater attention to the demand that large corporations be put under democratic control and that they release a part of their huge amounts of internal reserves to society. Equally, we should step up the effort to demand stricter measures regarding taxation, social services, fair trade, and protection of workers' rights.
(3) Japan's economic structure depends too much on exports, and too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of major corporations. By contrast, workers and people in general are more and more impoverished, and many smaller businesses are in danger of extinction, accelerating further declines in regional economies. With deflationary forces creating a vicious circle of recession, a drive for an expansion of domestic demand is essential.
After the outbreak of a global financial crisis the Japanese government in October 2008 launched a 26.9 trillion yen stimulus package that includes measures in support of small- and medium-sized businesses. In the budget for fiscal 2008 (April 1, 2008-March 31, 2009) the government compiled a budget that included tax breaks on housing loans and cash handouts designed to held increase personal spending. At the start of the current fiscal year starting on April 1, the government adopted a 24.4 trillion yen stimulus package that includes tax breaks on purchases of eco-friendly vehicles.
Despite these measures taken, expansion of domestic demand centering around personal spending did not increase. The job market was not reinvigorated. Without improvements made in the job market, the number of contingent workers has continued to increase and job seekers are having difficulty finding jobs.
The G20 leaders called for an economic recovery through boosting domestic demand in a joint statement adopted at their summit in early June in Pusan, South Korea. It is well known that most industrialised countries are making efforts to raise the minimum wage, improve job training, and create jobs as pat of their economic stimulus.
The financial circles and large corporations are pressing the government to lower corporate taxes and raise the consumption tax rate at the same time on the grounds that the need now is to increase Japan's international competitiveness.
This makes it all the more important for unions to demand that the government correct the regressive taxation favoring large corporations and ask large corporations to pay the costs for social services as they are asked to pay in Western countries, cut military expenditure and other unnecessary spending to secure tax money to be used to improve health care services, welfare programs, education and job creation in the public sector.
The task now is for the peoplefs movement to demand strengthened functions of wealth redistribution and the elimination of poverty and economic inequalities.
(4) Due to the economic recession that began in the autumn of 2008, many corporations, which had tried to cut costs by reducing overtime work and halping plant/office operations, began to carry out dismissals of temporary agency workers before the term of contract expired.
In the early 2000s, under the aegis of the gstructural reformh policy, Prime Minister KOIZUMI Junfichirofs government raised the social insurance premiums and fees for medical services paid by patients with the health insurance and forced the general public to pay more in tax. The low income bracket suffered most in this regard. Deregulation of labor law provisions to protect workers and the adverse revision of the Employment Insurance Law destroyed the safety net for workers in case of losing their jobs. As a result, the rate of the unemployed eligible to receive the unemployment benefits dropped to 23 percent. Retirees and unemployed count for more than half of people enrolled in the National Health Insurance. The rate of payment of the National Health Insurance tax has decreased to 88 percent in FY 2008. The rate of the National Pension contributions has dropped to 64 percent, causing concerns that the number of people who are not eligible to receive pension benefits may further increase.
As the number of contingent workers increased, the relative poverty rate rose to 15.7 percent in 2007. Ginifs coefficient shows that the poverty rate is in all generations.
Since the autumn of 2008, when Lehman Brothersf failure triggered global financial and economic crises in 2008, the situation stated above has been recognized more as a social problem. Even a pro-business circles think tank put out a report arguing that creation of quality jobs is effective for economic growth.
The government has set up panels and study groups of various sorts to set out to review the government employment policy. However, as clear from its bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law, the government stops short of making a clear shift toward adopting a policy to strengthen worker protection, moving instead toward a pro-growth policy
We will pursue the task of developing the movement demanding more stable jobs without expiration dates set and cuts in contingent jobs, a minimum wage increase, more quality jobs with equal treatment of workers, and the reestablishment of the safety net for workers who were forced out of work.
(5) A survey by the All Japan Teachers and Staff Union (Zenkyo) shows that as of March 2010, the rate of senior high school students who found jobs after their graduation at the end of March was 90.2 percent, down 1.4 percentage points from the previous year, suggesting that the economic downturn is making job finding more difficult for high school graduates. An Education Ministry survey published on February 1, 2010, shows that only 80 percent of fourth year (senior) students and 67.3 percent of two-year college students were able to find jobs (down 6.3 points and 8.5 points respectively from the previous year). Companiesf hiring plans for April next year are not improving. Taking into account the fact that many companies have been moving their plants or business operation centers to other Asian countries since the outbreak of the global recession, the domestic job market can further shrink.
The governmentfs so-called gNew Growth Strategyh approved in June calls for a job growth in such areas the green industry, energy, health care, including nursing care, tourism and local development (including agriculture). However, this strategy does not present any concrete steps. In connection with a 20 percent job cut plan in public service employees, the strategy calls for a deep cut in new hires for government employees for FY 2011 (starting in April 2011).
Various movements are picking up to revitalize local communities, such as efforts that put emphasis on agriculture and forestry as key industries, on fostering small- and medium-sized enterprises and on the establishment of ordinance on local government contracts. Unions are called upon to work in solidarity with these movements in order to ensure jobs.
(6) Livelihood Protection (welfare assistance) benefits are provided on very strict conditions. This keeps the ratio of actual recipients to those eligible to receive benefits very low. Government estimates that 3.89 million households in Japan (10.4 percent of the working households) earn less than the amount of Livelihood Protection benefits.
Our efforts, including the tent city, have made known to the whole of society how serious it is for workers who were dismissed as temporary agency workers and became homeless who are forced to endure hardships. We have also learned that poverty business is increasing to become a social problem. Social services in Japan are inadequate, and this makes unemployment all the more serious and calls for the urgent need to step up the movement demanding more job creation.
Emergency jobs programs are being put into practice. The effort to create networks to help those who are in need of help is under way so that no tent city is needed.
It is important to mend the failing safety net to help people who lost their jobs and to improve the livelihood protection programs and their application.
2. The movement demanding measures against corporate tyranny
(1) In December 2009, Toyota Motor Corp. notified its suppliers that the prices it pays for car parts would be reduced by 30 percent despite the fact that the automaker is increasing production again thanks to tax cuts on eco-friendly vehicles. This is an example of how large corporations are using their superior position to force suppliers to lower prices of supplies, the typical method they use to bully suppliers.
Many large corporations are moving their operations out of Japan to establish their production and business centers in other Asian countries through plant/office shutdowns or consolidations in Japan, leaving more and more workers without jobs and forcing small- and medium-sized enterprises out of business.
In the 2000s, the number of smaller companies going bust is 2 percent higher than the number of such companies opening. The total number of small- and medium-sized business establishments decreased by 820 thousand between 2001 and 2006. In addition, they have been hard hit by the present economic downturn that started in the autumn of 2008. Their financial positions are more and more vulnerable. Many of them are in financial crisis.
Government subsidies to encourage companies to provide job opportunities and government programs to financially assist smaller companies are far from being adequate. The movement calling for the strict implementation of the two laws to protect small- and medium-sized businesses and assistance to them using tax breaks and subsidy is growing. Efforts are also being made to get local governments to establish ordinance to help in the development of small- and medium-sized businesses and to propose a national charter of small- and medium-sized business.
We need to develop joint action with small- and medium-sized businesses as part of the effort to win workersf demands for job security and a minimum wage increase.
(2) The Japanese government has concluded comprehensive economic partnership agreements and free trade agreements with ASEAN countries. As the next step, Japan is negotiating agreements on specific trade with these countries. This trend remains unchanged even after the establishment of the Democratic Party government. Japan is also negotiating economic partnership agreements with Australia and India and a free trade agreement with the United States.
Economic partnership agreements and free trade agreements represent the demands of multinational corporations for more favorable conditions for exporting products such as automobiles and electronics. They are also intended to open Japanfs market to foreign agricultural products, which means devastation of regional economies in Japan.
At the same time, exclusion of non-bidding government contracts and introduction of competitive bidding appear to be acceding to the publicfs demand for cost cuts, but it has to do with the implementation of the WTO agreements. In fact, excessive practices of competitive bidding often result in price dumping competition, which in turn becomes a stumbling block to establishing a public contract law or ordinance.
In parallel with the opening of the Japanese market to foreign products and services, Japan is encouraging companies to hire more foreign workers under the pretext of a shortage of hands in Japan.
Unions must cooperate with agriculture organizations in developing a movement against so-called free trade.
3. Urgent task is to oppose gsmall governmenth policy
(1) The government approved the gOutline of Strategy for Decentralizationh on June 22, 201, despite the fact that the Diet had rejected a package bill to promote decentralization had been rejected.
The main contents of the outline include the following provisions: the abolition of the national minimum standards applied to child care centers and child protection facilities; review of the state-imposed requirements such as the abolition of the number of a local assembly seats and the expansion of local government power to enact ordinances, and the abolition in principle of government local offices. Unlike in the past, the association of governors is playing a leading role in promoting these policies.
Decentralization is directed toward forcing local governments to undertake what the national government has done so far and toward expanding disparity between regions under the pretext that the central government should be in charge of some particular affairs. Unlike in the past, the ruling party and some opposition parties are competing for such reform.
The recent spread of foot-and-mouth disease shows how difficult it is for local governments alone to ensure the stable implementation of medical services, welfare programs, education, and public health services. The task now is to increase our struggle against reducing the scope of responsibility borne by the national government and against gsmall governmenth policies that are forced upon the public under the name of decentralization.
(2) More and more local governments are using market testing and utilize the outsourcing system. More government-run entities have been turned into independent agencies. For-profit business is making inroads into child care and other welfare programs, leading to the undermining of quality jobs and the creation of working poor.
The coalition government of the Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties used the unpopular practice of giving retired government officials lucrative executive positions at government-affiliated organizations and private sector companies to introduce competitive bidding for services outsourced by the central government. This has endangered employeesf jobs at local offices of the Justice Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Ministry. The Democratic Party government also follows this course, and even strengthens it by eliminating services to cut costs through screening various government projects and by transferring as many services to the public sector.
It was in this context that the government Social Insurance Agency was replaced by Japan Pension Service, a special public corporation. This transition has forced 500 former Social Insurance Agency workers out of work. The Employment and Human Resources Development Organization, an independent administrative agency, was abolished. In this process, the government prepared legislation to deny continuing with the employment and working conditions from the independent administrative agency. This is how state is responsible for the destruction of jobs.
In Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture, assistant language teachers (ALTs) faced a termination of contracts. This is a clear example of how the irresponsible use of temporary agency workers in the public services causes problems associated with employment. Thus the disregard of peculiarities regarding the fixed number of employees and budgetary restrictions are causing adverse effects.
Joint action demanding the elimination of working poor in the public sector is advancing. Further efforts are needed to maintain and improve the employment and working conditions in the public sector.
4. Fight back against cutbacks being carried out in social services under the pretext of fiscal crunch
Public anger at the series of adverse revisions of social services prompted the change of government, but the Democratic Party government is acting in direct contravention of the wishes of the public by putting emphasis on cutting back on individual services instead of holding down the total expenditure on social services. It is delaying the abolition of the discriminatory health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and older. It is also intent on carrying out pension reform by linking it to a consumption tax increase.
In dealing with the health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and over, the government is considering lowering the starting age for this problematic system. This is a typical case of the DPJ reneging on the promise it made in its election "Manifesto". As clear from the increase in the burden of the costs of health care on the insured and the unjustifiable attack on the national health insurance for self-employed, the move toward adversely revising the health insurance system is further picking up under the DPJ government.
In connection with an increase in the poverty rate, abolishing fees for medical services for the insured and cuts in the premiums for the health insurance are a major issue not only for the workers but also for the public in general. The movement demanding a raise in remunerations paid to medical institutions for their services and improvements in public hospitals and clinics is increasing.
Our struggles have produced some positive changes that have led to setting up a panel to consider restoring the system of paying additional livelihood protection (welfare assistance) benefits for single mother-headed low-income households and abolishing the Law to Assist in Self-support of People with Disability and making people who have been impoverished due to their unemployment except from the payment of social insurance contributions. Joint struggles for better working conditions at nursing-care facilities and for reducing or exemption of nursing care insurance premiums are also making advances.
At the same time, however, we must be guarded against the moves to squeeze our demands for improvements in social services by emphasizing the need to raise the consumption tax rate ostensibly to deal with the countryfs worsening fiscal position due to the snowballing debt.
We must not allow the government to reduce the issue of social services into the governmentfs financial issue. We will continue to demand that the payment of social insurance premiums should be according to the ability to pay and that Japanese corporations pay more in social insurance premiums for employees as well as in corporate taxes.
5. Japan is condemned internationally for the inappropriate treatment of workers
In April 2008, joint ILO-UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) sent a fact-finding mission to Japan in response to complaints filed by the National Teachers and Staff Union (Zenkyo). The CEART put out an interim report in December the same year, calling for negotiations and consultations to be held on the issues of the system to deal with issues, including teachersf insufficient ability to teach and the teacher evaluation system. The CEART opinion has something in common with ILO recommendations regarding the basic labor rights for public service employees. Thus, the report calls for the restoration of the fundamental labor rights to public service employees including public school teachers. Concerning the fundamental labor rights for public service employees, the ILO made its sixth recommendation in June 2010 calling on Japan for an early reform in this area.
Regarding the complaint filed by the National Union of Welfare and Childcare Workers (Fukushi-Hoikuro) that Japanfs policy for people with disability is in violation of the ILO Convention No. 159, the ILO in March 2008 called into question the provision of the Japanese law to promote self-help of people with disability calling for beneficiaries to pay for services they use and stated that the international organization will have the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations continue to watch and examine the situation relating to disabled peoplefs character as workers at their work centers. In this regard, work is under way to examine the labor rights for the disabled and intractable disease patients as part of preparations for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Japan has signed the convention but has not ratified it yet.
In August 2009, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published its view on the sixth examination of Japan. It strongly called on Japan to revise its civil law regarding the lowest age permitted to get married, the number of years required between divorce and remarriage and the right of husband and wife to use different surnames. It also called for a ban on discrimination against women in employment, correction of wage disparities between men and women, and the establishment of gender-equal society. Nevertheless, opposition to the CEDAWfs opinion persists in Japan as shown by the fact that the bill to amend the civil law is still to be submitted in the Diet. Thus response to the CEDAW opinion is very slow.
We must note the fact that these international organizationsf opinions imply their irritation toward the Japanese governmentfs reluctance to take action in response to them under the pretext of domestic circumstances.
The labor movement is now tasked to increase its movement demanding Japanfs adaptation to the international standards.
Part IV: General direction of the movement for the next two years
1.We will work to develop joint action calling for moving away from big business-centered society and economy
In its movement over the next two years, Zenroren will tackle the increasing poverty rate, and widening economic inequalities, demanding that society and the economic structure be changed away from one of serving the interest of large corporations and forcing the working people to suffer.
In promoting this struggle, it is essential to join forces with various unions and organizations that are confronting large corporations. We attach importance to building a broader cooperation by unions, civic organizations, small businesses, and various business organizations. We will also work with local community movements to achieve regional economic revitalization that will ensure stable employment and job security.
We will encourage more and more union members to participate in the struggle at all stages and strengthen educational activity.
2.In our movement over the next two years, we will call for a welfare nation that secures employment and social services
(1) Zenroren will launch the struggle called for at its 24th Extraordinary Convention to demand stable and quality jobs
We will begin a movement to get employment rules established to ensure everyone can work with dignity as a social issue, calling for permanent cooperation to break away from the present society centered on large corporations.
(2) The movement calling for stable and quality jobs aims to: 1) require employers to hire workers without terms of employment preset and to pay wages based on the cost of living principle; 2) improve the quality of work by freeing workers from long hours of work and excessively heavy work loads and by putting into practice the principle of equal treatment of workers; 3) improve the safety net for workers losing their jobs, such as unemployment benefits and job training; and 4) improve workersf living conditions, including health care, welfare, pension, education, and housing.
We will seek to develop this movement on these four issues comprehensively into a movement seeking a "welfare nation" focusing on the issue of employment. In waging the struggle for jobs we will attach importance to join forces with the effort to eliminate gender discrimination.
We will also pay attention to the fact that there are many workers who are not regarded as "workers". Such workers are not counted as workers and denied the fundamental labor rights.
(3) Our movement will focus on the following issues in the next two years:
We will continue to demand an overhaul of the Worker Dispatch Law. We will press for the fixed-term employment system and the part-time labor law to be revised in order to regulate termination of contracts and the repetition of short-term employment, demanding that jobs be offered under contracts without provisions for limiting period of employment. We will encourage unions to address the issue of achieving gender equality in employment.
We will further develop the movement demanding that the minimum wage law be revised so that it is at least 1,000 yen per hour and that no one is forced to work for wages below levels of livelihood protection (welfare assistance) benefits. We will also advance the movement calling for ending excessively long working hours and excessive workloads by revising the Labor Standards Law to secure intervals between work times, setting legal upper limits to working hours for continuous work, and making overtime work and late-night work more restrictive.
We will step up the effort to conclude labor contracts and develop a united struggle to win a minimum wage to be established at each company, more effective regulation of extra hours of work and the use of paid holidays ? which are essential for shortening working hours.
We will work for gsafety-neth to be re-established, which includes revising the Employment Insurance System Law to make it possible to extend the periods of unemployment benefit payments, improvement of the job training programs, and payment of benefits necessary to survive..
We will strengthen the movement demanding public contract law/ordinance be established and call for the government to take the initiative in creating stable and quality jobs.
We will work to establish a right to work for all workers. Court struggles that involve judgment whether the issue is about the worker by definition should be seen as part of the workersf struggles in general. We must defend the historical gains from suffering setbacks. We will continue to fight for the restoration of the fundamental labor rights.
We will develop concrete action plans for the struggle for the ratification of key ILO conventions, including No. 105 (abolition of forced labor) and No. 111 (discrimination in respect of employment and occupation), and other international treaties relating to working hours and public contracts.
(4) Zenroren will revise its basic policy statement gObjectives and Outlook of the Early 21st Centuryh to reinforce its employment policy to reflect a sharp increase in the ratio of contingent workers to all workers.
In the course of revising the gObjectives and Outlook of the Early 21st Centuryh, we will hold a series of gdiscussion and studyh meetings at local levels from autumn this year. While organizing nationwide discussion on gobjectives and prospectsh, we will take concrete steps to launch the movement.
After the gdiscussion and studyh meetings, we will hold discussion to finalize the revision of the gObjectives and Outlook of the Early 21st Centuryh and hold a national rally in autumn 2011 to help increase the struggle for jobs.
3. To make advance in the national movement against consumption tax increase and for fundamental improvements in social services
(1) We will demand that large corporations and the wealthy pay their share of burden according to ability to pay, addressing the issue of improving social services in a national movement making clear that state has the responsibility in implementing Article 25. We will develop a joint effort to demand the legislation of a social security law.
(2) We will step up our campaign to make the public know how large corporations and the wealthy are benefited from their preferential tax treatment and how the consumption tax is responsible for the widening of economic inequalities and will organize a nationwide struggle against plans to raise the regressive consumption tax.
We will continue to press for cuts in military expenditure, which has been set aside from the budget cut list, and exercise a right of taxpayers to keep watch on the way tax money is used. We will consider launching a campaign to expose the actual usage of the military budget.
In order to promote these tasks, we will call for more effective operation of the Organizing Committee for the National Movement.
4. We join forces with unions and various other organizations seeking to move out of society centering around large corporations
(1) We will work together with other organizations to expose internal reserves accumulated by large corporations and demand that a part of these excessive profits be used for the benefit of society and the public.
We will make the campaign urging large corporations to use a part of their internal reserves a year-round campaign. We will cooperate with small enterprises, their related organizations, farmers' organizations and civic organizations to hold symposiums to expose large corporations' bullying of subcontractors.
(2) We will take part in work to force large corporations to give up their refusal to bide by the Fundamental Law on Measures to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which set the goal for a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 from the 1990 level.
Regarding the government policy on nuclear power plants, we are insisting that it must not be one of easily depending on nuclear power generation. We will further develop the campaign demanding corporations fulfill their social responsibility and review their business activities.
We will work to strengthen control of unnecessary late-night work.
(3) We will work in solidarity with international efforts to put multinational corporations' authoritarian activities under control and increase cooperation with unions of other countries in carrying out corporate watch and surveys.
5. We will push ahead with the movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the dismantling of U.S. military bases in Japan.
(1) Building on what we achieved at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, we will contribute to strengthening the movement in Japan to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. We will also pursue even stronger cooperation among trade unions on this issue.
(2) We will continue to demand that the government abrogate the "secret nuclear agreements" with Japan. We will call on trade unions of other countries to support the appeal for a total ban on nuclear weapons and the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones.
(3) We will seek to mobilize as many people as possible to the movement for the removal of U.S. Military bases in Japan, including the unconditional dismantling of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, and to the movement to block the construction of new bases on the coastline of the Henoko district of Nago City, Okinawa, and transfer of a part of the functions of Futenma base to Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshim Prefecture.
We will develop these struggles in concert with the movement for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
6. We aim to achieve the mid-term goal by combining the struggle for jobs and the effort to build up organization
(1) In 2010, the final of the 5-year plan for the expansion of union ranks, we will strengthen cooperation with federations and local organizations.
We will focus on contingent workers, young workers, small- and medium-sized enterprise workers, linking the effort with the struggle for jobs.
(2) While we plan to hold a rally during the struggle for jobs in the autumn of 2011, we will organize a nationwide review of mid-term plans and discuss in preparation for the next mid-term plans with a view to revitalizing the movement to organize.
We confirm the outline of the course of Zenroren education at the 25th Convention.
(3) We will promote participation in the Zenroren Mutual Aid in order to further expand and improve the basis of mutual assistance. We link the mutual aid activity with organization drive, reviewing systems and steering of the mutual aid, so that it will be one of the main Zenroren work.
Part V: Zenroren puts emphasis on the following immediate tasks:
1. Oppose dismissals and unemployment and demand stable and quality jobs.
2. Demand that wages/personal incomes based on the principle of cost of living be secured
3. Demand expansion and improvements in social services and oppose a consumption tax increase
4. Work to stop the adverse revision of the Constitution, get nuclear weapons abolished and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty abrogated.
5. Call for democratic change in politics.
6. Increase cooperation and joint action with the worldfs trade unions.