KOGA Says! RENGO's Statement by General Secretary

KOGA Says!
Statement about the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Management/Labour Policy Committee Report

19 December 2006
RENGO’s Statement by General Secretary Koga
  1. The first Keidanren Management/Labour Policy Committee Report since Mr. Mitarai took office as the Chairman in December 2006 has been released. Up until the last report, although inadequate, there were at least references to labour viewpoints such as ‘revitalising the strength of workers in the field’ and ‘appropriate ways to boost the motivation of ”ordinary people” who support the workplace.’ However, this latest report has moved away from any sense of what is happening on the shop floor or to people’s livelihoods. One gets the impression that, compared to previous reports, ‘the human face’ elements are lacking.
  2. One of the distinctive points of this report is the lack of reference to the widening wealth gaps in society. The working poor are basically ignored, with statements such as ‘the economy is showing signs of recovery across sectors, from business to the household.’ It is hard to comprehend where exactly, in Japanese society, Keidanren is looking, to come up with an understanding like this.
    General statements such as ‘if wealth gaps are the avoidable kind and reasons for the gap are rational, that is acceptable are where the report’s ideas on this issue begin and end, there are no comments or judgments on concrete cases. I wonder if Keidanren really sees what’s happening now, in terms of growing disparities among different types of employment and the trading relationships between companies, as part and parcel of a fair society? One of the causes of the growing wealth gaps lies with recent corporate behavior and management should face up to real situation in recognition of their own responsibilities.
  3. The report stresses that the important thing from now on is ‘personnel strength.’ RENGO also believes this is a key issue but the report shows a complete lack of understanding of the present situation these ‘personnel’ find themselves in. In many workplaces ‘polarization of work’ is becoming more and more extreme, with regular employees working very long hours and non-regular employees such as part-time, temporary and contracted workers, whose working conditions are of much lower standard, are used at the employer’s convenience. This is causing the weakening of ‘personnel strength.’ Does this not inevitably result from the damaging personnel policy of undervaluing long term ‘investment in human resources’?
    The report also emphasizes ‘independent ways of working’ by ‘independent personnel,’ but taking into account the negligence of long term human resource development and the spread of ‘discretionary labour without discretionary rights’ one can only conclude that this way of thinking is out of touch with workplace potential. The report makes no effort to address the issue of ‘polarization of work’ and shows that employers are only thinking of one thing—how to expand their practice of forcing workers to work at their beck and call. On top of that, the proposed introduction of the white collar exemption is abominable.
  4. The report, as per usual, argues for wage control and it is very easy to see that Keidanren’s intention is to control wages by using a follow-the-leader approach. The report claims that the fall in the distribution rate to labour is due to factors in the economic cycle, but pay cuts for employees are occurring at the same time as dividends to shareholders and pay cheques for company executives are growing. Can this really be explained away as a vagrancy of the economic cycle? If one of the issues that enterprise labour/management should be addressing is ‘increasing added value’ then the fact that there is no reference to ‘fair distribution’ is a problem. What ever happened to the 3 principles of productivity? If corporations really believe that they have the ‘public spiritedness’ to make social contributions, then they should first respond sufficiently to worker’s efforts. We are determined to call for a gain sharing.