Exchange of Views between Government, Labour and Management Held for First Time in Eight Years
An exchange of opinions between government, labour and management was held among the government, RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and JCCI (Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry) at the Prime Minister’s Office on March 15. This marked the day of concentrated responses from major companies amid the Spring Labour offensive, and discussions focused on wage increases at SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises), where labour-management negotiations will be moving into full swing, and on the spread of wage increases to companies without labour unions and to workers on fixed-term, part-time, and dispatch contracts.
This was the first government, labour and management meeting since the second Abe administration eight years ago. In addition to Prime Minister Kishida, Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato, and other government representatives, the meeting was attended by RENGO President Tomoko Yoshino, Keidanren President Masakazu Tokura, and JCCI President Ken Kobayashi.
At the meeting, RENGO President Yoshino made the following remarks.
High prices are having a major impact on workers’ lives. RENGO has set a target of around 5% for wage increases, and many unions have submitted aggressive demands, and are making progress in drawing out responses in line with the purpose of these demands, including full responses. We hope that this meeting will serve as a catalyst to encourage labour-management negotiations among small- and medium-sized unions, which are about to get underway, and to spread wage increases to companies without labour unions and to those working in fixed-term, part-time, and temporary positions.
In order to revive the Japanese economy, said to have lost its way for 30 years, a one-time wage increase this season is far from sufficient. The government, labour and management must continue their efforts to improve the environment so that wages, prices, and GDP can rise steadily. At the same time, the minimum wage will also be raised.
In order to dispel the deflationary mindset and move into a stage where real wages continue to rise and the economy steadily rises through active investment in people, the government, labour and management must continue to hold dialogue to take necessary measures. We also hope that the government will consider establishing similar opportunities at the local level.
The following statements were made by management.
Today, major companies in the automotive, electronics, and other sectors have announced aggressive responses that fully take into account price increases, including large base increases for the first time in about 30 years and high levels of bonuses and lump-sum payments, which lend even more strength to the momentum for raising wages.
We are confident that today’s response will serve to encourage positive consideration by many companies, including SMEs, which are entering the critical phase of labour-management negotiations, and will lead to further strengthening of the momentum for wage hikes.
Finally, Prime Minister Kishida, on behalf of the government, stated the following.
In order to realize wage increases for SMEs, it is essential to ensure proper business transactions through appropriate shifting of labour costs. The government, with the cooperation of the Japan Fair Trade Commission, will conduct a survey of each industry and compile guidelines on how labour costs should be passed on. We also request that industry associations revise and thoroughly implement their voluntary action plans based on the results of the survey on price shifting conducted by the government.
Correcting the disparity in wages between men and women and raising the wages of non-regular workers are also extremely important.
We would like the Minimum Wage Council to hold extensive discussions on minimum wages, including the achievement of a nationwide weighted hourly average of 1,000 yen this year.
On March 17, RENGO announced the first results of the Spring Labour Struggle for 2023.
According to the results, the 805 unions that received responses based on the average method received a weighted average wage increase of 11,844 yen, or 3.80%, which is the highest amount and highest rate of wage increase since 2013, the closest year of comparison.
In addition, although the method of counting is different, this is the first wage increase in excess of 3% in 30 years since 3.11 % in 1994.
The Government, Labour and Management Meeting was held for the first time in eight years.
In order to revive the Japanese economy, which is experiencing the so-called “lost 30 years,” cooperation between government, labour and management is essential.
In particular, raising wages, which is the central theme of this meeting, is an urgent issue to maintain and improve the lives of working people, expand consumption, and lead to a virtuous cycle in the economy. In this regard, the meeting on March 15 was perfectly timed to encourage SMEs to raise their wages.
It is also important to extend this momentum further to include enterprises without labour unions and non-regular workers such as part-time and contract workers.
Furthermore, the minimum wage mentioned by Prime Minister Kishida should aim for 1,000 yen on a simple average (930 yen in 2022) rather than on a national weighted basis (961 yen in 2022).
The official name of this meeting, according to the government announcement, is “Exchange of Opinions between Government, Labour and Management,” although the rationale for holding this meeting is not entirely clear.
Conversely, the meeting held under the second Abe Cabinet was officially called the “Government, Labour and Management Meeting for Achieving a Virtuous Circle in the Economy,” while the basis for holding the meeting was a decision by the Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy in the Cabinet Office. In this respect, the Government, Labour and Management Meeting at that time had a much higher status than the current meeting.
We hope the government will further enhance the exchange of views between the government, labour and management, and position this issue at a higher level.