Zenroren statement on report of Keidanren’s Committee on Management and Labor Policy
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
January 29, 2021
The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) on January 19 issued The 2021 Report on Management and Labor Policy. It’s areport on management’s guidelines for the annual labor-management wage negotiations known as Shunto, or the Spring Struggle:
Rejection of wage increase on the pretext of a pandemic
The report sets forth the business federation’s basic stance that it is important for companies to decide on the wages according to their ability to pay on the grounds that the coronavirus pandemic is adding to the uncertainty about the future. Accordingly, it rejects an across-the-board wage increase set by each industry or for all companies in an industry as unrealistic. It instead emphasizes the need for each company to thoroughly manage its total labor cost. At the same time, the report says priority should be given to assessing business performance, keeping business going, and securing employment. All this reveals the selfishness of the business sector, which takes no notice of the livelihoods of the workers and the people in general and which is reluctant to fulfill the corporate social responsibility to raise wages.
Dismissals of contingent workers and failure to take responsibility for collapsing livelihoods
Concerning the employment in times of a pandemic, the report says, “The unemployment rate is kept lower and the level of social unrest has been kept lower compared to the time of a crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.” It closes its eyes to the harsh realities which many contingent and women workers are experiencing as they undergo hardships after being fired. This is how it tries to evade corporate responsibility. The report also argues a lot as if “digitalization” would be savior that can solve shortages of workers in such sectors as agriculture, care services, healthcare, and construction. But the report has no reference to the true cases of the workers’ hardships, viz., inadequate wages and bad working conditions.
Attempt to ease labor laws protection of workers by taking advantage of the pandemic
Regarding the working-time regulation, the report apparently takes advantage of the difficulty caused by the pandemic to call for labor laws to be reviewed in order to promote more autonomous style of work and attach importance to performance. It is seeking to rush to easing regulation to adversely revise worker protection laws by expanding flexible working systems such as the discretionary working system and remote work. Encouraging workers to do side jobs or side business, or work remotely is intended to create a system that would allow employers to use workers by disregarding the concept of the working time or by forcing workers to work without overtime premiums.
An attempt to thwart the effort to raise minimum wage
The report says it was “very realistic” that the Central Minimum Wage Council left the recommended amount unchanged citing that representatives of the employers at the meeting for FY2020 “strongly argued that there can’t be an increase in the minimum wage (amid the pandemic)”. Noting the economic situation in the lingering pandemic and discussion going on about a future system of recommending levels for the minimum wage, the report insists that “not only the minimum wage, but wages in general should be appropriately determined according to each company’s ability to pay instead of following government policy calling for a raise.”
We demand the large corporations to fulfill their social responsibility by using a part of their internal reserves
The large corporations are increasing their internal reserves to 459 trillion yen (about 4.4 trillion US dollars) even in times of a pandemic. The report encourages companies to continue to amass their savings as investment in the post-coronavirus future. This is incompatible with the pressing needs of the workers who are afflicted by a serious crisis of employment and growing unemployment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. We demand that the large corporations use a part of their internal reserves to increase wages from bottom up for workers and to pay more for supplies to small- and medium-sized businesses.
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the problems and limits of neoliberal policies. We cannot overlook the report’s position of continuing to give priority to serving the best interests of corporations and failing to face up to the need to improve the workers’ livelihoods.
In this year’s Spring Struggle, Zenroren is demanding a substantial wage increase and bottom up, equality in treatment between permanent and contingent workers, a uniform national minimum wage at 1,500 yen (about 14 US dollars) to eliminate economic inequality and realize a society in which everyone can enjoy a humane living by working eight hours a day. We demand the large corporations fulfill their social responsibility in the coronavirus pandemic so that our demands can be realized along with the revitalization of the local economy.