Vol.31-No.04 April 1,1992
Akio Morita, Sony Corp. chairman and deputy chairman of Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations), released an article, titled "Japanese-style Management in Jeopardy," in a magazine. He says that "Japan can no longer be allowed to continue to compete in the world market with a management style which is incongruous with that of the international community." Takeshi Nagano, president of Nikkeiren (Japan Federation of Employers' Associations) which acts as a business department for the zaikai, or major business organizations, argued against the Morita article. This debate has caused a stir in the mass media.
Changes in attitudes have become notable among labor circles. Kinzoku rokyo (IMF-JC) (Japan Council of Metal Workers' Unions), which consists of labor unions in the steel, auto, electrical machinery and shipbuilding industries, has led the shunto for the more than 10 years, following the outbreak of the first oil-supply crunch. To eradicate the vicious cycle of wage increases and inflation, IMF-JC put forward a "planned wage hike in line with economic growth," thus setting forth the principle of wage determination related to economic performance, with the purpose of control wages. This meant that labor and management agreed that reconstruction of the Japanese economy was an urgent task. On the basis of such industrial relations, the Japanese economy successfully weathered the two oil crises and a recession brought on by the strong yen. But in recent years Japan has received increasingly sever criticism from Western nations, causing the Miyazawa administration to set forth the slogan "creating a quality of life in Japan commensurate with its powerful economy."
This year's shunto is characterized by the fact that IMF-JC which spearheaded a wage hike in line with labor productivity, was asked to reflect on its traditional approach to start the annual wage talks. The Council unveiled its view that shorter work hours and wage hikes should be promoted even at the expense of the nation's industrial competitiveness. It had never before referred to "at the expense of the country's competitiveness" in such a context. Jidoshhasoren (Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers' Unions) IMF-JC's major member union, also made the proposal that they go through model changes and changes in types of cars and decrease the output of cars when occasion demands, noting that "excessive competition hampers achievement of shorter working hours."
It may safely be said that Japan's shunto wage-hike talks have begun to change from the traditional ones which are devoted only to the nation's economic success. Rather they now seek to establish a symbiosis with the rest of the world. These moves spurred further reduction of labor time in comparison with the previous year. Wage increases, however, left workers dissatisfied, mirroring a 20 percent drop in major business firms' ordinary earnings from the year before.
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