Vol.35-No.04 April 1,1996
Shunto - Labor and Management Stances in Wage-Hike Talks
Kinzokurokyo, Japan Council of Metal Worker's Unions (IMF-JC) submitted their wage-hike demands to management by February 22. Reflecting the yen's recent retreat against the dollar and improvement in corporate earnings, unions of four pace-setting metal industries (electrical machinery, automobiles, shipbuilding and heavy machinery, and steel) are seeking to surpass last year's record-low 2.83 percent average wage gain.
Management, meanwhile, maintains that assuring jobs is more important than raising wages to maintain international competitiveness. The annual labor-management wage negotiations, known as shunto, thus got underway in earnest around March 21, when answers from management to these demands were scheduled to come.
With clear signs of recovery in business results due to increased demand for semiconductors amid a global boom in personal computers, electrical machinery makers are expected to show double digit profit increases for the second straight year in fiscal 1995, which ends in March 1996. Thus, labor and management in other industries keeping a closer watch than before on the wage-setting trend in the electronics industry during this year's spring wage talks. Unions of electronics manufacturers will call for wage increases for a 35-year-old worker with 17 years of service, thus moving away from the present "average wage-hike formula" which represents the average wage-increase rate for all union members and will emphasize the new "individual wage formula." This move is intended to narrow the gap in wage disparity between industries by representation of the wage amount in a way that is easily comparable to that of other industries. They demand a wage hike averaging over 12,500yen monthly.
A tug of war over working hours between labor and management will be the focus of wage talks in the auto industry. Workers are expressing concern over the decline in domestic car production due to sluggish auto exports and expanding overseas production. Foreseeing more serious employment conditions in the years ahead, they are calling for adjustment of production capacity. Jidoshasoren (Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers' Unions) is demanding a cut in scheduled working hours to around 1,870 hours a year by shortening daily working hours by 20 minutes.
However management maintains "the current working hours are favorably comparable to those of U. S. Big Three and are much shorter than in South Korea".
Whether or not there will be a wage hike in the steel industry draws much attention. Last year, unions at the nation's 5 major steel makers faced the first zero-rise in wages except during the postwar period of economic turmoil. They reflected the poor business performance of steel makers in 1995. Tekkororen (Japan Federation of Steel Workers' Union) has demanded a pay hike of 3,000yen in this year's wage talks. It is determined to stand firm and reject a two-year streak of no pay increases, thus stressing that it plans to vote to approve a strike depending on management's response to their demand.
Japan Cenfederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Workers' Unions for the first time dropped an approach to determining wage increases based upon the rise in annual business. This is due to a wider gap in business results between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. which expects record-high corporate earnings and 7 other firms.
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