RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held the 76th meeting of its Central Committee on December 5, 2017, and decided its policy on demands for the improvement of wages and working conditions in labour-management negotiations to be held in the spring of 2018 (the annual spring labour struggle for a better life).
Regarding wages, RENGO decided that trade unions should demand a raise of around 4%, consisting of a basic wage hike of about 2% and a regular wage hike of about 2%. The basic wage hike means a raise in the basic wage of all employees in a company; the regular wage hike means a raise in the part of the wage determined by number of years of employment. Companies that do not have a regular wage hike in their wage systems should make an equivalent wage hike demand.
As the background to these wage demands, RENGO cited the continuing moderate growth of both the Japanese economy and the world economy. And as grounds for the amount to be demanded this time, it pointed to the need to raise wage levels in all industries and to correct disparities. Experts have said that the high level of corporate profits recently is also a tailwind for wage hikes. At the same time, however, there are concerns about the environment surrounding wage hikes, including the fact that the Japanese economy has still not been able to exit the prolonged period of deflation and, in several instances, instability in the international political and economic situation.
In the 2018 wage demands, RENGO is emphasizing the improvement of conditions for workers in small and medium-sized companies and nonregular workers. The gap between workers in small and medium-sized companies and workers in large corporations is growing. To correct this gap, RENGO proposes that the level of wage hike demands in small and medium-sized companies should be at least 10,500 yen. RENGO also places importance on improvement of the hourly wages of nonregular workers, such as part-time workers. It is demanding that, first of all, the hourly wage of nonregular workers should be set at 1,000 yen. Workers who have already achieved this level should demand an hourly raise of around 37 yen.
Regarding working conditions, RENGO places top priority on the correction of long working hours. In Japan, shortening of the working hours of regular employees is not making progress, and overwork is seen as the cause of illnesses and even deaths. RENGO urges improvements on this issue and the realization of a work-life balance. For this purpose, it is calling on trade unions to strengthen labour-management agreements stipulating overtime in all workplaces and to check that the upper limit on overtime is, in principle, 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year. In addition, even in unavoidable special cases, RENGO is demanding that the upper limit on overtime should be 720 hours a year.
In the light of RENGO’s policy, industrial trade union federations and company-based unions will discuss and decide their demands in January and February of next year. With RENGO’s policy serving as a national guideline, decisions will be made on the basis of an analysis of industrial and corporate conditions and discussions among trade union members. Company-based unions will then submit their demands in writing to management, and collective bargaining will take place. Usually most unions receive replies from the company in March or April, and a settlement is reached. In some cases, however, when agreement cannot be reached, unions seek arbitration or take industrial action.