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The 2010 Spring Labour struggle (Shunto) Starts

Nobuaki Koga,
President of JTUC-RENGO

The 2010 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Life of Workers got off to a start on January 27, 2010, with a meeting between the top leaders of Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) and Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation). The annual spring labour offensive, or "shunto", is a nationwide campaign of workers to simultaneously negotiate wage raises and other working conditions with management; it has been a common practice in labour-management relations in Japan over the last half-century.
In the meeting, Nippon Keidanren Chairman Fujio Mitarai expressed the basic position of the management side in dealing with the 2010 spring struggle as follows:
"Although the Japanese economy is pulling out of the worst, it is still in an unpredictable situation. Every time we have faced difficulties in the past, we were able to overcome them through close cooperation between labour and management, but the current crisis is far worse than any past crises. We hope that labour and management will tackle the present crisis jointly so as to realize an autonomous recovery of the Japanese economy as soon as possible. It is true that there are some differences of opinion between labour and management. But we believe that both share the same wishes that through the continuation and development of companies, we can look forward to achieving employment security and improvement of the lives of workers while also realizing a better economy and society. Labour-management relations, based on thorough discussion and mutual close cooperation with a view to realize common goals are the source of Japan's competitiveness. Under the present harsh economic circumstances, the negotiations between labour and management in the coming spring labour struggle will face rough going, but it is hoped that agreements which are acceptable to both labour and management will be reached through full-fledged discussions, with top priority placed on the continuation and development of companies, and on job security for workers based on the realities and solvency of companies."
In response to these arguments by Nippon Keidanren, Rengo President Nobuaki Koga emphasized how trade unions have come to make the present demands as follows:
"There is not much difference between labour and management in our recognition of the circumstances surrounding us and the direction that negotiations in the spring offensive should take. Labour and management face many problems, including how to overcome the deflationary economic situation, how to dispel the insecurity and uneasiness of working people, and how to pave the way toward solving the issues of non-regular workers and poverty.
In the coming spring offensive negotiations, Rengo will place importance on the issues of (1) the treatment of workers, including non-regular workers, and (2) the maintenance of wage levels. With regard to the argument of Nippon Keidanren expressed in the report of its Committee on Management and Labour Policy earlier this year that in wage negotiations 'it is necessary to have talks in line with the realities of the companies, as to whether the wage curve is to be kept or not," we would like to stress that our demand for the maintenance of the wage curve is our minimum demand. If the wage curve is not maintained, we are concerned that it will lead to a future sense of insecurity among working people and a fall in consumption, thereby worsening the deflationary economy.
During in the middle of February, each enterprise-based union is scheduled to submit written demands to its company management in coordination with the industrial-level federation to which it is affiliated. Negotiations then will take place between the trade unions and management at each company level in the hope of concluding a final agreement by some specific date in March.

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