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2013 Spring Struggle Gets Underway

RENGO Responds Critically to Nippon Keidanren's 2013 Spring Struggle Policy
Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) announced the management side's policy for the 2013 Spring Struggle for Betterment of Livelihood (shunto) in a report by its Committee on Management and Labour Policy released on January 22, 2013.

In the report, Nippon Keidanren makes clear its position of promoting the further restraint of personnel costs, in other words, wages. It states that in view of the worsening economic environment, which is expected to continue for a while due to the strength of the yen and lingering deflation, the management side has no room to raise the basic wage rate. It also suggests the possibility that the regular annual wage raise may be frozen or postponed for two consecutive years.

The committee's chair, Mr. Koji Miyahara, a vice-chairman of Nippon Keidanren, emphasized in the report that since the harsh management environment is expected to continue for a while, top priority should be placed on the survival of companies and the maintenance and stability of employment. He indicated that in the coming shunto the spotlight will focus on maintenance of the wage curve and handling of the regular annual wage hike.

In response to the report, RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) declared critically that Nippon Keidanren's arguments from start to finish amounted to nothing more than seeking to secure the profits of individual companies and, in its call for the deregulation of legislation relating to worker protection, completely ignored the reality of Japan's wounded society. RENGO also stated that Nippon Keidanren should indicate its position not only on such policies as employment patterns, the treatment of workers, and labour regulations but also on such matters as social policy, labour economics, and industrial relations.

At a meeting of its Central Committee held on December 20, 2012, RENGO emphasized the need to restore and raise wages, which have been falling since reaching a peak in 1997, and decided in this year's spring struggle to demand a 1% wage hike with the aim of expanding consumption and domestic demand through wage raises and breaking away from deflation as quickly as possible.

2013 Spring Offensive gets underway
The 2013 Spring Struggle (Shunto) got off to a full-fledged start on January 29 with a meeting between the top leaders of RENGO and Nippon Keidanren. In the meeting, RENGO side was headed by President Nobuyuki KOGA and Nippon Keidanren side by President Hiromasa YONEKURA.

In the beginning of the meeting, Nippon Keidanren President Yonekura stressed that a good relationship between labor and management is the Japanese companies' strength and urged that in the negotiation in the coming Spring Struggle, it is requested to mutually make efforts for constructive arguments toward settling issues while correctly sharing a sense of impending crisis more than ever in order to secure the survival and development of companies and the maintenance and stability of employment.

In response, RENGO President Koga emphasized that, in addition to the government economic and financial management, the results of labor-management negotiation in the coming Spring Struggle will hold the key to a solution to breaking away from the deflationary economic situation and called on Nippon Keidanren to dispatch messages with an awareness of social responsibility from macro-economic point of view.

In the discussion, RENGO strongly argued that it is the deflation of wages that is the major cause of the deflationary economy, and strongly demanded that it is essential to recover from "the wounded employment and working conditions." On the other, Nippon Keidanren maintained a cautious attitude, claiming that, while prospects for the future is so dim, top priority should be placed on the survival of companies and the maintenance and stability of employment.

Schedule of the 2013 Spring Struggle
Following the meeting, this year's spring offensive will get off to a full-fledged start. During the middle of February, each company-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 union and the management at each company in the hope of concluding a final agreement by some specific date in March.

RENGO expects the first climax to come around March 13-14, when core unions in major sectors like the automobile, electrical, iron and steel, and other metal industries will receive their replies from management; small and medium-sized unions will follow suit later in the month, probably around March 25-29.

On the basis of these replies, RENGO is planning to hold a joint struggle promotion rally on April 2 to encourage those unions that have not yet reached a settlement.

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