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Unions strongly demand sharp wage increase all the more because of the pandemic
Let us win even larger pay raise drawing lessons from last year

Kurosawa Koichi
Secretary General, National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
Secretary General, People’s Joint Spring Struggle Committee
March 12, 2021

The Joint People’s Spring Struggle Committee and the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) are aiming to win a substantial wage increase all the more because of the coronavirus pandemic. Zenroren-affiliated industrial and regional federations are waging a united struggle. In this year’s Spring Struggle, we are demanding a monthly wage increase of more than 25,000 yen (about 230 US dollars), the amount put forward by most unions in a survey. We are also pushing for improvement in wages for workers of all types of employment and rectification of pay disparity between permanentl workers and contingent workers.

On March 11, more than 50,000 workers participated in a national concerted action, which included strikes. We urged the employers to give unions sincere offers on March 10, the day many employers announced their offers. The first tallies of wage offer shows that a number of pay raises have been reported thanks to our member unions’ efforts. However, the offers are far from satisfying the workers who badly need wage increases in order to improve their livelihoods.

The wage struggle has secured raises that are better than the last year’s in terms of weighted average. We rate highly the great efforts made by activists of the Joint Spring Struggle Committee and Zenroren-affiliated unions which have displayed their bargaining power. 

The organizations that launched strikes in protest against inadequate offers presented by the employers are continuing demanding a sincere offer from them. The joint struggle committee and Zenroren is helping unions increase the efforts in cooperation with local communities with a view to making the March and April a period to win wage increase offers.

At the start of the Spring Struggle, the joint struggle committee and Zenroren held the New Year publicity campaign on January 6. They had successful action on January 15 and held a rally on January 27. In February, they carried out concerted action in many cities. At the workplace level, many union members delivered their demands in writing to the employers aiming to settle their labor talks on March 10.

A large number of small- and medium-sized businesses are uncertain about the future due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are experiencing hard times trying to secure their employees’ jobs and continue doing business. This is why we have underlined the importance of supporting small- and medium-sized businesses and demanded that more benefits be delivered to help them maintain business or pay the rent, in addition to assistance to workers, who are experiencing difficulty making ends meet, by funding for more subsidies to employers for keeping workers on their payroll and more cash for those who have no income due to temporary business closures. A part of the growing amounts of internal reserves amassed by the large corporations should be used, and fair business practices should be realized, to substantially increase the unit prices paid to small- and medium-sized suppliers as well as the wages for their workers.

In the present Spring Struggle, the joint struggle committee has been fighting strenuously, in the workplace as well as in local communities, to set benchmark wage rises ahead of the large unions, including the International Metal Workers’ Federation Japan Committee. But unions have not yet won any significant results due to the business sector’s attack to destroy the Spring Struggle and its argument that there must be a choice between productivity and wages. Meanwhile, the workers’ needs to protect their living are more pressing than ever, making our effort a ray of hope.  

The government is plagued with a series of scandals involving high government officials due to the lack of ethical standards. Many people want to see a government change but are unable to envisage what new government should be like. They are angry and frustrated.

The Joint Spring Struggle Committee and Zenroren is determined to continue to fight to help deepen joint struggle between the citizens’ movement and opposition parties to realize new politics and demand improvement in healthcare and social security services to protect people’s well-being and the public services.

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