Corporate activities and results of the settlement of FY2002 spring joint labor negotiations

It is customary for both the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and various labor-management organizations to release their own reports on the final settlement results of the spring joint labor negotiations.

With the deflationary trend gathering pace, and drastic layoffs and other corporate restructuring becoming rampant, demanding sufficient wage hikes seemed out of the question, even from the outset of the negotiations. As expected, compilation results showed that all the companies decided to raise employee wages on a latter-half level of 1%, which were record low figures.

Meanwhile, according to a ranking of incomes declared by corporations for FY2001 announced by Teikoku Databank, Toyota Motor, enjoying brisk exports, was named the top income earner for three years in a row. Ranked second was NTT DoCoMo whose cellular i-mode system remained extremely popular. They were followed by Tokyo Electric Power, Nippon Life Insurance, Honda Motor, and Takeda Chemical Industries, in that order. The electric machinery and appliance industry fared poorly in general, while in terms of total income by business category, sharp drops were seen most notably in the construction sector, followed by the manufacturing, wholesale, and financial/insurance sectors.

On the other hand, the Nikkei Shimbun's survey on operating earnings for the term ending March 2002 targeting 498 companies listed in Section 1 of the Tokyo Stock Exchange showed that in compiling their operating profit by region, profits from overseas such as in the US and Asia accounted for 27.6% of the total. This tendency of depending on overseas business for their operating profit was particularly marked in companies ranked higher on the list. Honda, Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, and Sony were the top four companies that registered large profits overseas.

With the domestic market remaining inactive, there is a possibility that companies may emphasize overseas activities even further to make up for declining sales and operating profits.

One serious concern resulting from this trend is falling domestic employment. Under these circumstances, IMF-JC, which, along with Rengo, had made tremendous contributions to setting criteria in past spring joint labor negotiations, announced at its August annual meeting that it would not propose a uniform pay raise for next year's spring joint labor negotiations.

In their general meetings held this past summer, a number of industrial unions, including the National Union of General Workers, which covers the employees of small- to medium-scale companies, as well as the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers' Union, which covers staff members of local municipalities have opted to ask Rengo to reconsider its decision.

Although demanding that wages be raised to speed Japan's emergence from recession, labor unions are being forced to prioritize employment security over wages. With the deflationary trend persisting, labor unions are finding it even more difficult to seek an agreement between their hardships and development of business by corporations to tide oversurvive the recession and survive. Worse yet, it seems that things may get even more confusing in the years ahead.