Regular NIPPON KEIDANREN Meeting Held

Opinions Exchanged on Spring Struggle Issues

03 February 2004
On January 29, RENGO held a meeting with Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) at the Keidanren Kaikan Hall in Tokyo. Opinions were exchanged on a variety of topics such as the Spring Struggle’s top-priority issues, extending employment until 65 years of age, and pension system reform, in which RENGO strongly stressed that “management is forgetting its position of taking care of workers.”
Attendees at the meeting from the RENGO side included President Sasamori, Acting President Sakakibara, Vice Presidents, General Secretary Kusano and Assistant General Secretaries; while Chairman Okuda, Vice Chairmen, chairmen of related committees, and Senior Managing Director Yano attended from Nippon Keidanren.

Photo:RENGO says “Absurdity is being pushed off onto workers.” (January 29, Keidanren Kaikan Hall) Photo:RENGO says “Absurdity is being pushed off onto workers.” (January 29, Keidanren Kaikan Hall)
On the matter of corporate performance improvement, President Sasamori was critical and said, “lying under the surface of these improvements are such sacrifices as downsizing and efforts by workers. We want management faithfully respond to this situation.” He also said that “we should point out that management is forgetting the main principle of business, that is, to take care of its workers.” Further, he brought up the fact that even in those businesses that have profited, actual conditions of unpaid overtime have been brought to light. He said, “the absurdity is being pushed off onto the workers,” and stressed that it is necessary that labor and management counter by abolishing unpaid overtime. Responding to the topic of pension system reform, Sasamori called on Keidanren to work together in order to realize those demands based on joint remarks released last year.
In response to Sasamori’s remarks, Chairman Okuda acknowledged current conditions by saying that the “(Japanese economy) has stripped off its ‘baggy suit’ through downsizing and its clothes now match its actual size.” Further, he also said that “in Japanese family budget ledgers, there are some stand out expenditure items. We wonder whether the burden might be reduced by rationalizing consumption and right-sizing.” He then appealed saying that “costs for private cram schools (juku) for children are too high, but we would not need to have our children attend them if compulsory education was sufficiently competent. We would like to propose educational reform together with workers.” Furthermore, Chairman Okuda proposed that “we think we need to, create such opportunities as this several times a year, get together and talk about not only wage problems but also various national systems.”

Continuing, RENGO stated the issues as follows: “it is truly regrettable to see a decrease in basic pay levels enter into the general discussion. There must be a change in the wage system.” “The actual conditions at local small to mid-sized businesses are miserable. Pay hikes are an absolute must for those businesses.” “In fact, workers are trying to raise productivity by working at home. They are forced into unpaid overtime, which has now turned into a mental health issue.” “One of the goals of the Spring Struggle is to review ways of working overall. With legislation of the “Nurturing the Next Generation Support Measures Promotion Law” (tent.) businesses have to bear the responsibility of coming up with plans. The realization of equal treatment will improve efficiency and therefore (Keidanren) needs to work on that.” “Businesses seeking cheaper labor have increased the ratio of part-time workers all at once but there have been no environment or systems yet arranged for part-time labor such as equal treatment.”
Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) claimed that “(the report given by the Federation’s Committee on Management and Labor Policy) said that those businesses which are weak, especially in international competitiveness, may lower wages depending on the circumstances, which does not mean providing guidance on uniform pay cuts. We believe that the survival of businesses and the maintenance of employment are the most important.” “In the Spring Struggle, balancing family and working lives is another issue to be pursued. We hope to introduce such systems as short-time work and others.” “We have been and are strongly opposed to any obligatory extension of employment until 65 years of age. Although we find it highly problematic that whether or not businesses adopt the plan will be decided by law, we have begrudgingly settled for this under the understanding that management authority is said to be guaranteed. While we understand the need to link the retirement age with the pension eligibility age, we still oppose the establishment of such a link through legislation.” “There is an increasing paradox that, on the one hand workers do neither want to work at Three-K workplaces—places that are severe (Kitsui, in Japanese), dirty, (Kitanai) or dangerous (Kiken)—nor being tied down to timetable-based work, but at the same time most job openings are actually found in those areas.”

In conclusion, both leaders offered their remarks. KEIDANREN Chairman Okuda said “I think there were no strong backlashes of differing opinions. I myself think workers are the most important and my thought that businesses can only be built upon workers has not changed a bit. The first decade of the 21st century will be a crucial period for deciding Japan’s future course. We want to fight along side of workers to get to whatever point we can while discussing both labor and management’s opinions.”
Responding to this, RENGO President Sasamori said “it is important to find even one, two, or however many resolutions as possible. There are many areas in which both workers and management can work together against the government on such issues as unpaid overtime or pension problems.” He continued by saying that “Nippon Keidanren states that it is not insisting on uniform wage cuts, however we must point out that in actuality they are. Every household has already been doing a go over of family budget account. And extension of employment until the age of 65 to become eligible for the national pension is necessary no matter what the price. Further, we submit that what is needed is work-sharing between seniors and our young people.” After which, the meeting was adjourned.