Regular Meeting with NIPPON KEIDANREN

Talks Begin on 2005 Spring Struggle

25 January 2005
On January 18, RENGO held a regular meeting with Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) in Tokyo. Under the general theme of spring labor management negotiations various opinions were exchanged on such issues as "economic situation and wage determination," "unpaid overtime work," "job policies," and "fundamental reform of the social security system." RENGO demanded that Keidanren jointly respond to the realization of fundamental social security system reform, efforts to stop the falling birthrate, compliance activities, the abolition of unpaid overtime and activities for job measures that target young people. Attendees at the meeting from the RENGO side included President Sasamori, Acting President Hitomi, each Vice President, General Secretary Kusano, and each of the Assistant General Secretaries. From Nippon Keidanren, attendees included Chairman Okuda, all Vice Chairmen, chairmen of related committees, and Senior Managing Director Yano.

Photo: President Sasamori tells attendees that Photo: President Sasamori tells attendees that
President Sasamori appealed to Keidanren attendees to return to management with employee sovereignty and stated that "business’ overall performance is recovering. However this is due to the sacrifices and great contributions made by the workers. How the profits from this recovery in performance should best be passed along to the workers in the form of jobs, wages, and better labor conditions, will be a major term of the demands in negotiations."

In his remarks, Sasamori also touched upon such issues as the realization of equal treatment for atypical workers, support for balancing homes and careers, and work-sharing. He then demanded that Keidanren take joint responses together with RENGO toward the realization of radical reform of the social security system, respond to stop the falling birthrate, compliance activities, and the abolition of unpaid overtime.

Nippon Keidanren Chairman Okuda responded by saying that "there are some parts I quite agree with. We need to create 21st Century Japanese society, labor and management in an integrated manner. The centerpiece of this year's agenda is to realize the integrated reform of social security." Further, he added, "Prime Minister Koizumi is reticent about (introducing a new) consumption tax or tax for welfare purposes because, I assume, cuts in budgetary spending have been insufficient. There has been some talk about local government employee wages, which we want to engage in a dialog with RENGO on the actual conditions. Our calculations show that without introducing an environment tax we will be able to attain the standards set forth in the Kyoto Protocol thanks to the efforts of business and our citizens."

During the opinion exchange, Nippon Keidanren stated that "while it is true that business performance is on the way to recovery, attaining regular across-the-board pay increases every year for everyone is difficult to achieve. The Spring Struggle for lateral base salary increases has finished its role. There is very little room for across-the-board wage curve hikes." On the other hand, Keidanren argued that the "RENGO White Paper states that businesses 'steal' from employees catching them off guard; which is not true. The purpose of business is never to steal from employees. We have in fact been quite consistent in our idea of giving great attention to the people." Keidanren also claimed that "the gap between people who could find jobs, who could stay at enterprises, and those who could not, is big, because of social polarization. What we should first correct are these disparities."

Responding to this, RENGO said "the key to the recovery of the Japanese economy lies in the transfer of income to the household sector. The amount of disposable income in worker households has declined for six straight years in a row. We strongly urge management to proactively distribute the results." RENGO continued saying, "Nippon Keidanren’s recent idea of wage determination only focuses on the ability of individual businesses to pay, which lacks a macro viewpoint." Furthermore, RENGO asked for Keidanren’s understanding on such issues as: joint activities to realize equal treatment / labor condition improvement and job measures for atypical workers; activities to improve terms and conditions for subcontractors and small and medium-sized enterprises; activities for fair public contracts; and compliance activities.

Meanwhile, Nippon Keidanren replied that "by utilizing the Fostering the Next Generation Support Measures Promotion Law, we would be able to draw up a set of rules that include enriching child-raising leave and shortening working hours for people raising children; the difficulty begins when one actually tries to implement them. A decisive factor is the cooperation from co-workers in the workplace, which is one of the themes at this year’s Spring Negotiation."

In response to this, RENGO said that they believe "the problem is that Keidanren does not directly address the illegality in workplaces where the practice of unpaid overtime is running rampant." RENGO appealed by saying that "we would like to invite Keidanren to work in cooperation with us to develop a movement that will abolish unpaid overtime. The first thing that we need to do in order to help balance the needs of family and career is to reduce overtime work. We would like to suggest that labor-management hold discussions to review working hours and working methods."