On August 21, 2012, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare issued a report on its 2011 Statistical Survey of Labour Disputes, which covered labour disputes occurring in Japan from January to December 2011. The survey's aim was to clarify the actual state of labour disputes by investigating forms of industrial action taken, number of participants, demands, and so on.
The survey classified labour disputes broadly into two types: "disputes accompanied by industrial action," that is, disputes involving strikes or other industrial action, and "disputes unaccompanied by industrial action," in which third parties, such as labour relations commissions, were involved in settling the dispute without any industrial action.
Labour Disputes by Type
A total of 612 labour disputes of both types occurred in 2011 (down by 10.3% from the previous year), and the number of participants was 58,495 persons (down by 47.1%). These figures showed declines for two consecutive years. Among the total labour disputes, the number of "disputes accompanied by industrial action" was 57 cases (down by 37.1% from the previous year), and the number of participants in industrial action was 8,604 persons (down by 59.5%).
Disputes Accompanied by Industrial Action
Looking at "disputes accompanied by industrial action" by form of action taken, 28 cases involved strikes of more than half a day (down by 26.3% from the previous year), and the number of participants in such strikes was 1,674 persons (down by 32.5%). The number of man-days lost due to strikes was 4,378 days (down by 81.2%).
Thirty-five cases involved strikes of less than half a day (down by 37.5%), and the number of participants in such strikes was 7,375 persons (down by 61.2%). Both of these figures showed decreases for four consecutive years.
Regarding the main demands in disputes, 267 cases were related to wages, accounting for 46.6% of the total, followed by matters related to management, employment, and personnel affairs, such as personnel cuts and unfair dismissal. Matters relating to trade union guarantees and labour agreements, such as trade union recognition and labour agreement observance, accounted for 181 cases.
Settlement of Labor Disputes
Of the 612 labour disputes occurring in 2011, 478 cases, or 78.1% of the total, were settled or treated as settled, and 134 cases were carried over to the following year.
Regarding method of settlement, 97 cases were settled through negotiations between labour and management, and 178 cases were settled through a third party. Of the latter, 175 cases were settled through the mediation of labour relations commission (see note below).
Labour relations commissions are administrative commissions set up on the basis of the Trade Union Act with the objective of protecting the right of workers to organize and fairly adjusting labour relations in accordance with the Trade Union Act, Labour Relations Adjustment Act, and other legislation. Commissions are tripartite bodies comprising representatives of employers, workers, and the public interest. They exist at the national level (Central Labour Relations Commission) and in all of Japan's 47 prefectures (prefectural labour relations commissions).