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No.83(2012/3/6)
Obituary: Mr. Etsuya Washio, Former President of RENGO
It is with immense sorrow that JILAF announces the death of Mr. Etsuya Washio, former president of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation). Mr. Washio passed away on February 26, 2012, at the age of 73.

Mr. Washio was elected as the second general secretary of RENGO in 1993 and then as the third president of RENGO in November 1997. At the RENGO Convention held in 1997, at which Mr. Washio was elected president, RENGO declared its new slogan to be "strength and action." During his leadership of RENGO, Mr. Washio resolutely developed "action" and made vigorous challenges from the viewpoint of improving people's lives and expanding workers' rights in the midst of the rapid advance of globalization, the long-term economic recession and financial crisis following the collapse of the bubble economy, and structural reform policies adopted by the governments of the time aimed at deregulating the Labour Standards Law, the Worker Dispatch Law, and other related legislation.

In 1999 Mr. Washio made an all-out effort to revise RENGO's political policy so as to broadly bring together political forces based on the working people and citizens on the axis of the Democratic Party of Japan with a view to establishing a two-party system enabling a change of power.

Mr. Washio also contributed to the international trade union movement as vice-president of the former International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and vice-president of the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD-TUAC). It is also remembered that he played a great role in promoting workers' independent welfare activities.

Moreover, on the occasion of RENGO's tenth anniversary in October 2001, Mr. Washio announced a "welfare-type society centered on work" as the social image that the RENGO movement should pursue. Ten years later, in 2010, this vision was upgraded to a "secure society built around work as its core," and today RENGO is promoting its movement in accordance with this spirit.

May his soul rest in peace.
Law Enacted to Reduce Wages of National Government Employees by 7.8%
On February 29 the National Diet enacted a law relating to the wages of national government employees, as a result of which the wages of national government employees will be reduced by an average of 7.8% in fiscal 2012-13. The decrease consists of a 5%-10% cut in monthly wages and a 10% cut in bonuses.
Amid the difficult fiscal situation, a wage cut for national government employees had been discussed as a time-limited measure in order to provide necessary expenses relating to the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. Furthermore, it had also been agreed with the government that the right to strike and other basic labour rights of public employees, who so far have been deprived of these rights by law, would be restored at the same time. In the current Diet session, however, the government gave priority to enacting the bill to reduce the wages of national government employees, and a bill to grant basic labour rights to public employees was not even discussed. RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) issued a statement saying, "It is extremely regrettable that the related bill has not yet been discussed. We strongly urge the ruling and opposition parties to commence discussions in the Diet."
At present a deflationary situation is continuing in Japan, and the wages of workers are declining as well. In these circumstances, if the wage cut for national government employees exerts an adverse impact on the wages of local government employees and people working in local businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises, not only will Japan be unable to break away from deflation but also the economic slowdown will be prolonged. RENGO urges the government to properly fulfill its accountability "so that the wage cut for national government employees does not exert an adverse impact on labour-management negotiations in small and medium-sized enterprises and local businesses." It is also necessary for labour to attend negotiations with employers who aim to jump on the bandwagon and reduce personnel expenses with a resolute stance, including the establishment of strike preparations.
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