Evaluation of the 2011 Spring Struggle for a Better Life and Its Challenges

02 September 2011

Overall evaluation

  1. How the 2011 Spring Struggle for a Better Life progressed and how it is  evaluated as a whole
    Under the situation in which all the trade unions are placed respectively, the 2011 Spring Struggle for a Better Life (the 2011 Spring Struggle) pursued a fairer distribution and grappled with a recovery of working conditions, in full force with 5 joint struggle liaison conferences as the central body. In the way to progress the struggle without break, in addition to “interested joint struggle organizations”, “the first preceding trade unions” which drew out replies at the most important stage in March and “the second preceding trade unions” which aimed at conclusions at the next week had been set in a concrete manner. And then, the 2011 Spring Struggle strived for strengthening the repercussion of a certain standard formed and secured by these trade unions so that the standard could be linked to the collective replies to the trade unions of small and medium-sized enterprises which were expected to be made during the specified period from March 28 to April 1. From the viewpoint of strengthening joint struggles in the local industries, the 2011 Spring Struggle also grappled with strengthening the functions of the joint struggle liaison conferences of the RENGO locals.

    However, on March 11, “the Great East Japan Earthquake” with a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred. RENGO held an emergency steering committee meeting on March 14 and an emergency central executive committee meeting on March 22, and decided that, as far as the 2011Spring Struggle is concerned, 1) the affiliated industrial federations should tackle the struggle with their own judgments; 2) the trade unions which have the possibility to draw out replies from the managements should develop negotiations on their own policies and try to gain the replies with all their might ; and 3) RENGO firmly maintains the function to find the combined total results and put the progress of negotiations in order. In spite of the unprecedented disaster caused by the Great Earthquake, the preparedness for the struggle could be basically maintained under the leadership of industrial federations. It is evaluated that this was the main factor to gain replies of an increase of 119 yen compared to that of the last year and, in the case of small and medium- sized enterprises (with less than 300 employees), a 258 yen increase compared to that of the last year.

  2. Recovering wage level
    The 2011 Spring Struggle pursued a recovery of the wage level in 1997, the highest level for the most recent period. To be concrete, looking from the macro-point of view that it is essential to correct and dissolve the unbalanced distribution of income between families and enterprises, the 2011 Spring Struggle aimed at a recovery of working conditions and a correction of disparities through “demanding  one percent increase of labor’s relative share as the standard”. In the midst of continuing low growth rate without getting rid of deflation, it was understandable how much latitude of wage raises the affiliates aimed at in recovering working conditions, but joint struggle-like actions could be certainly taken toward the same goal as a whole movement.

    The results of wage raises (final totaled results as of July 1) show that the number of the trade unions which submitted demands was almost the same with the last year although there were unions which were forced to suspend or postpone the negotiations or to cancel the united struggle during the course of the 2011 Spring Struggle due to the influence of “the Great East Japan Earthquake”. Looking at the results of negotiations from the final totaled results, 67.2% of the trade unions could maintain the wage curve and 5.7% of the trade unions could gain the improvement of wages (both of which are ratios of membership). The wage raise calculated by  the method of average wage was 4,924 yen, an increase of 119 yen compared to that of the previous year; in the case of the enterprises with less than 300 employees, it was 3,780 yen, an increase of 258 yen. Viewing from the original aim to recover working conditions and to correct disparities in this year’s negotiations, it cannot be said that sufficient results were gained, but it could be evaluated that persistent negotiations in severe negotiation environments led to a slight increase compared to the last year.

  3. Grappling with the issue of non-regular workers
    It is recalled that, in the 2009 Spring Struggle, a new effort to include the issue of improving the treatment of non-regular workers in the framework of labor and management negotiations, in addition to that of regular workers, was started. It is also recalled that, in the 2010 Spring Struggle, grappling with the same level and the same way of thinking for all workers were proposed and campaigns were developed accordingly. From the 2011 Spring Struggle, on the basis of the progress of such efforts and campaigns, “joint struggles of non-regular workers” centering on the joint struggle of part-time workers were set up in order to develop grappling with improving the working conditions of non-regular workers including indirect workers like dispatched workers. The unions which specifically grappled with the issue of improving the treatment of non-regular workers amounted to number  3,787 unions, an increase of 626 unions from the last year.

    Viewing from the result, grappling with the issue of non-regular workers in indirect employment (dispatched workers) which started from this year could be advanced   especially in the field of compliance with the laws. 

  4. Grappling with working hours
    The aggregate annual real working hours of the workers in general in 2010 were 2008.8 hours (in business establishments with more than five employees: Statistics of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare). Compared to the latest peak in 2007, the working hours were shortened by 38.4 hours, but, compared to those in 2009 when overtime substantially decreased after the Rehman Shock, they increased by 32.4 hours, going back up to 98% of 2007 level.

    The most numerous issue of shortening of working hours in this year’s Spring Struggle was that of the premium rate of overtime pay and 976 unions grappled with it but the number of the unions remained about one third of that of the last year. At the same time, the unions (688 unions) which grappled with shortening of ordinary working hours substantially decreased by about 30% compared to the last year. The number of unions which grappled with reducing overtime hours remained 724 unions, a decrease by 382 unions compared to the last year.

    As to grappling with shortening of working hours, it tends to increase in the years when the Labor Standards Law is expected to be revised, but the number of them continues to decrease in other years. It is necessary to bring discussions on grappling with shortening of working hours around to some conclusions, in addition to the discussions on the review of the medium-term policy for shortening of working hours including how to realize a work-life balance.

The result of individual struggle and its evaluation

  1. Wage
    The totaled results of wage raise as of July 1 shows that, out of the total registered unions, 4,628 unions for about 2, 219,000 union members have reached or are about to reach agreements. The contents of the replies they have drawn out are as follows:

    When calculated by the average wage raise method, the wage raise was 4,924 yen or 1.7% (the weighted average of 4,061 unions for 1,850,000 members), an increase by 119 yen or 0.04 point from the actual result of the last year.

    When calculated by the individual standard worker method, the wage level (the simple average of registered unions) reached 280,165 yen point at the age of 35 and 248,703 yen point at the age of 30. The wage level reached by the unions which included both annul regular raise and basic wage raise was 279,311 yen at the age of 35 and 247,710 yen at the age of 30.

    On the other, when calculated by the real basic wage raise method, the amount of the raise at each point was 467 yen at the age of 35 and 986 yen at the age of 30. The amount of the raise including annual regular raise was 6,171 yen at the age of 35 and 6,139 yen at the age of 30.

    Such a wage determination method through specifying workers by age or length of service have spread until now in the recognition that they are effective as the method to accurately accumulate an absolute level or as the way to clearly establish a financial resource distribution method, but now it has come to a standstill and it is necessary to verify and/or examine its significance and roles anew.

  2. Bonus
    The weight of bonus shared in the total annual income is certainly increasing and grappling with bonus is getting more important. On the basis of the opinion that RENGO should rank the effort for bonus more clearly and should develop movements for it in the 2011 spring struggle, RENGO developed the struggle under the policy that “bonus is a part of living wage and RENGO endeavors to secure and improve the annual income including bonus”.

    As a result, the totaled result (for 2,587 unions) of the months determined for summer/ winter lump-sum bonus was 4.41 months, and the totaled result (for 1,472 unions) of the amount was 1,475,705 yen, an increase of 0.03 month in the month and 68,111 yen in the amount. For the future, the details on how the movement should be advanced will be further worked out.

  3. Starting wage and the minimum wage at the age of 18
    Through the efforts for raising starting wages, 159 unions drew out replies and could succeed in revision for high school graduates engaging in production jobs with the average level of 156,797 yen. Similarly, after the replies to 307 unions, the starting wage for office work or technical work of high school graduates was revised to 154,826 yen on average. The starting wage for office work or technical work of university graduates was revised to 191,037 yen on average after the replies to 365 unions. The amount of raises ranged from 84 yen to 327 yen.

    Through the efforts for raising the minimum wage at the age of 18, 759 unions drew out replies and concluded agreements. The average monthly wage amounted to 152,312 yen, an increase of 788 yen in amount and 0.52% in rate from the last conclusion.

    As to the raise of statutory minimum wages, we could raise them by 57 yen (from 673 yen to 730 yen: 8.5% raise) in four years from 2008. But in the midst of increasing pressure to cut down wages on the pretext of the development of diversification in the employment patterns, the intensification of international competition and the progress of deflation, it should be emphasized that the role of minimum wages and the importance of their raises are increasing. We have to keep the direction for aiming at more than 800 yen at the lowest level and more than 1,000 yen on average which were confirmed in the 2010 tripartite employment strategy dialogue. We will continue to strengthen our efforts for grasping the real situation of how the minimum wages including starting wages should be revised or raised in accordance with overall raise of wages so that the raises can be linked to our efforts for raising regional and industry-wise minimum wages so as to improve the working conditions of part-time workers and unorganized workers.

  4. Struggle waged by the joint struggle of the unions of small and medium-sized enterprises

    The result of the wage raises achieved by the joint struggle of the unions of small and medium-sized enterprises (less than 300 employees) was 3,780 yen or 1.53% increase in weighted average, surpassing the final result of the last year (an increase of 3,522 yen or 1.43%) by 258 yen or 0.10 point. Compared to the totaled results attained irrespective of size, the result was less by 1,144 yen or lower by 0.18 point, but the difference shrank when it is looked from the result of the last year.

    Moreover, the ratio of the unions gained more than 4,500 yen was 25.3% (932 unions), surpassing last year’s result of 22.3% (672 unions).

    Future problems
    It is surely evaluated that the positive result gained this year in comparison with that of the last year derived from persistent negotiations conducted in spite of a severe circumstance and we can say that we could make a steady achievement. Those unions which had found it difficult to calculate the portion to keep the wage curve had demanded 4,500 yen but the fact that the amount gained in weighted average was less than 4,500 yen meant that they could not maintain the wage curve, leaving a problem. From now on, we will examine how to secure 4,500 yen.

    Among the enterprises with less than 300 employees, when the average wages are   compared between those with 100 to 299 employees and those with less than 100 employees, the latter is 11,774 yen less than the former in spite of the fact that employee composition in such as average age is higher in the enterprises which have less than 100 employees. As lower average wage is closely related to lower earning of the enterprise, it is necessary to improve business transactions and to establish industrial policies related to small and medium-sized enterprises as fast as possible. At the same time, it is an important subject to strengthen the negotiation power of small scale unions.

    The unions whose results were collected decreased by 134 unions compare to that on the same date of the last year. The reason of the decrease can be considered to be the influence of the Great East Japan Earthquake, but it is necessary to verify whether it was only due to the disaster.

    The working conditions including wages of local industries and small and medium-sized enterprises are not a little influenced by local standards not only in their levels but also in the portion of the raises, so the 2011 Spring Struggle aimed at enriching and strengthening the joint struggle of both local industry unions and small and medium-sized enterprise unions. From now on, toward further strengthening joint struggles of local industry unions, we will seek after the understanding of the industrial federations and, at the same time, on the basis of the summary and analysis of wage data collected, we will seek after standard formation by industry and by enterprise.

  5. Struggle waged by the joint struggle of non-regular workers

    Struggle waged by the joint struggle of part-time workers and fixed-term contract workers

    The industrial federations which participated in the joint struggle of part-time workers and fixed-term contract workers had gradually increased and they   reached 20 federations in 2011. With the spread of such movement, efforts for   improving the treatment of part-time workers and other non-regular workers substantially increased compared to the last year. Moreover, with the increase of efforts for indirect employment workers, struggles for improving the treatment of non-regular workers have steadily spread much wider.

    The raise of hourly wage was 11.54 yen, almost the same amount of raise with the last year. The raise could be gained as the result of the negotiations conducted in a severe employment environment for fixed-term contract workers as seen in the slowdown of economic recovery after the Rehman shock and, moreover, in a severe environment after the Great Earthquake. In that sense, the result deserves a good fight. However, there still remain some differences from the standard amount of demands and it is necessary to continue to grapple with improving the differences.

    The efforts for incorporating minimum wage in the collective agreement which covers all the workers within the enterprise including part-time workers and other non-regular workers have resulted in the substantial increase of the unions which have succeeded in the settlement of the agreement. The result cannot be said to have been sufficient, but can be appreciated as indicating a gradual spread and advance of the movement through the efforts of industrial federations and unit unions.

  6. Struggle for revising collective agreement on working hours and other working conditions
    In the 2011 Spring Struggle, the efforts for revising the collective agreement on working hours and other working conditions were made by 6,188 unions of 25 industrial federations. As to working hours, 976 unions took up the issue of “raise of over-time premium” and then 724 unions tackled “shortening of overtime” and 688 unions grappled with “shortening of ordinary working time”.

    As to the revision of the agreement apart from shortening of working hours, 615 unions demanded the improvement of child rearing and nursing care leave systems, and out of them 166 unions could draw out replies. In relation to the “Next Generation Law”, 521 unions presented demands and 166 unions drew out replies. On the issue of the survey and inspection of the real situation of wage differences between men and women, 287 unions presented demands and grappled with the issue accordingly.