RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held the 2/10 Central Assembly to Declare the Start of the 2011 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers at the Hibiya Kokaido in Tokyo on February 10. The assembly, which attracted the participation of 2,080 union members, was held under the slogan of "Let's correct the distortions and disparities in distribution, break away from deflation, and vitalize the economy by improving the treatment of all workers!"
RENGO President Nobuaki Koga gave a rousing opening address, in which he said, "Japan is in a state of long-term deflation. No other major developed country has experienced deflation for such a long period of time. The present deflationary situation is a new type in which wages decline, so consumers seek cheap products; as a result, prices fall, and wages decline even further. It is clear that we must increase wages in order to break away from this serious deflationary situation. The objectives of this year's shunto
[spring Struggle] are to relieve the distortions that exist in the distribution balance between household accounts and companies, restore working conditions, and correct disparities. And we will endeavor to expand domestic demand by increasing household consumption expenditure, which accounts for approximately 60% of gross domestic product, break away from the deflationary economy, and restore the Japanese economy and society to a healthy state. In addition, regarding unorganized nonregular workers, labour unions should seek to improve their conditions as well. Accordingly, it is necessary for all unions to seek a fair distribution by aiming for a 1% hike for all workers. Let's do our best for the sake of all working people!"
RENGO General Secretary Hiroyuki Nagumo then read a declaration on the start of the 2011 struggle outlining the issues of the 2011 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers and efforts from now on. The declaration was adopted after applause by all participants.
Declaration of Start of the 2011 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers
The 2011 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers has started at last.
Amid a shortage of domestic demand, economic stagnation in Europe and the United States, and the impact of the strong yen, prospects for the Japanese economy are looking increasingly dim. Deflation is continuing, and wages are falling. Total cash earnings have declined by more than 5% from their peak in recent years. The number of nonregular workers is increasing, and disparities are expanding. The number of people earning less than 2 million a year now exceeds 10 million, and the number of households receiving livelihood protection has reached a record high of 1.41 million. It is feared that the employment of new graduates this spring will drop to an all-time low.
The current deflation is a new type of deflation in which the decline in wages is causing prices to fall in a chain reaction. Nevertheless, management does not understand the essence of this deflation and has not changed its stance of curbing personnel expenses. If wages continue to fall in this way, the Japanese economy will be unable to find a way out of the vicious cycle of low growth and deflation, and Japan might well follow a path toward collapse. We must somehow reverse this approach of management that emphasizes cost cutting, because it is this attitude that has given rise to distortions and increased disparities in Japanese society and labour.
The present economic and social distortions cannot be solved unless we see them as a clue for the rebirth of the Japanese economy and society. The objectives of our struggle are to correct the distortions that exist in the balance between household accounts and companies, recover working conditions, correct disparities, and restore the Japanese economy to a healthy condition by increasing household consumption expenditure, which accounts for 60% of GDP, and putting a stop to the shrinkage of domestic demand. We must reverse the contraction-oriented mindset of management and build a virtuous cycle in which enhanced motivation to work and positive investment in human resources lead to sustained growth.
Economic and industrial development is for the happiness of the people. Now is the time for us to return to the starting point of the ILO Philadelphia Declaration, which states that "poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere," and display the true raison d'etre of the labour movement.
The real struggle starts from today. On the axis of joint struggle, and under an environment in which all unions have been placed, we will demand fair distribution through a 1% hike in the total annual wage, the recovery of working conditions, and the correction of disparities toward the realization of our slogan, "Let's correct the distortions and disparities in distribution, break away from deflation, and vitalize the economy by improving the treatment of all workers!" With this assembly as our starting point, let us take the struggle to our workplaces and communities, spread the ring of struggle to all working people, including unorganized and part-time workers, and aim for the realization of a "work-centered society without anxiety." We hereby declare the start of the 2011 Spring Labor Offensive for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers.
February 10, 2011
RENGO 2/10 Central Assembly to Declare the Start of the 2011 Spring Struggle for Betterment of the Livelihood of Workers