On Keidanren’s ‘Report of the Committee on Management and Labor Policy’
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
January 21, 2022
The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) on January 19 issued its annual guidelines for employers in this year’s labor talks known as “Shunto” (Spring Struggle): “The Report of the Committee on Management and Labor Policy 2022.”
‘ The report clings to the need to manage the total labor cost and justifies the disparities among companies, leading to the disintegration of Shunto
The report makes clear that it holds fast to the main principle that wages should be determined based on each company’s ability to pay. It says that there will be no “across-the-board” pay increase as it is realistic to consider responding to labor’s demand for wage increases in a manner appropriate to each company, thus rejecting an across-the-board raise in Shunto and stressing the need for each company to thoroughly manage its total labor cost. It takes discrepancies among companies for granted without regard for the livelihoods of workers and people. This even goes against the leveling of working conditions within an industry to lead to fair trade. It can be taken as an attempt to disintegrate Shunto and failure to fulfill their corporate social responsibility.
‘Acceptance of manpower diversity must not be only in name
The report states, “It is increasingly important for businesses to stand for ‘Diversity & Inclusion’, the idea of accepting manpower diversity in businesses and organizations to help all those people display their ability as they find their work worthwhile,” citing the “promotion of women’s active roles,” the “employment of more young people,” “employment of elderly people,” the “encouragement of people with disability to play active roles.”
Given the gender gap being an issue drawing social attention, it is understandable that strengthening the system of raising the ratio of female directors or producing female successors is essential. But the business federation’s seriousness of doing so is called into question. It is not possible to solve the gender gap without protecting human rights, Such effort should not be directed to serving the interests of corporations.
‘Failure to refer to the need to protect worker rights in arguing for reconsidering the Japanese-style employment system
The report calls for the Japanese-style employment system to be reviewed and encourages the establishment of an employment system combining different types of employment in a manner suitable to each company. It also argues for the promotion of smooth labor mobility and the adoption of hiring systems that would allow for diversity in hiring and a treatment system that helps enhance engagement. But the report turns its eyes away from the reality that companies are using their power to arbitrarily shuffle personnel to weigh on workers’ family life or force workers to quit their jobs while stressing the importance of workers’ independent-minded attitude. This is how it lacks the viewpoint of protecting worker rights. We cannot agree with the report’s view on labor laws. Widening the scope of application of the discretionary work system, introducing and utilizing the job-oriented employment system, introducing the system of dismissing workers with severance pay are dangerous systems that forces workers to voluntarily quit their jobs. These kinds of deregulation or the establishment of such systems must not be allowed.
‘Raise minimum wage to 1,500 yen per hour everywhere in the country based on the reality of workers who are paid near minimum wage
The report says that the 2020 recommendation to raise the minimum wage by 1-yen had an impact on 4.7 percent of the nation’s workers and admits that there are many workers who are paid as low as minimum wage. In the subsequent paragraphs the report only makes all sorts of complaints about minimum wage increases being led by politics. It says that “now is the time to review the minimum wage system and the present method of determining the amount of minimum wage by region.” To begin with, the low wages persist against the background of large corporations’ unilateral cuts in unit prices they pay to suppliers and the expanded use of contingent workers. The report fails to recognize the reality that the minimum wage is much lower than the cost of living. The minimum wage needs to be increased as soon as possible to 1,500 yen (about 14 dollars) everywhere in the country.
‘We demand large corporations fulfill their social responsibility by using a part of their internal reserves for workers
Even in the face of pandemic, the large corporations continue to increase their internal reserves to 466 trillion yen (about 4 trillion dollars). The report explains the “meaning of the internal reserves in a time of pandemic” by stressing that the internal reserves helped to ease the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic. What’s more, it justifies the internal reserves by saying that the companies “are obliged to keep cash and savings in peacetime in the event of all sorts of risks.” The report shows no regret over the insatiable effort to accumulate internal reserves driving the Japanese economy into a corner. But it is now obliged to respond to social criticism to a certain degree.
In Shunto 2022, Zenroren demands shift to an equitable society in which everyone can live a humane life if he or she works eight hours a day. This is possible by winning a big pay raise, wage increases from the bottom up, a 1,500-yen minimum wage and an end to economic inequalities. We strongly demand that the large corporations fulfill their social responsibility by using a part of their internal reserves to this end as well as by helping in the revitalization of local economies.