Vol.37-No.06 June 1,1998
The CSU Forum (the managerial workers' union at the large adhesive maker Cemedine) had complained of unfair labor practices, claiming that "Cemedine had not complied with its request to enter collective negotiations over the introduction of allowances for managerial workers." On April 13, the Central Labour Relations Commission (CLRC) ruled in favor of the order by Tokyo Local Labour Relations Commission, and ordered Cemedine to deal with the CSU Forum as a legitimate labor union and to comply with the union's request to sit down at the bargaining table. This is the first time that the CLRC has recognized a managerial workers' union as a legitimate labor union.
When Cemedine decided to extend the retirement age until 60 in 1983, it introduced a system whereby managers from section chiefs on up would be called "staff managers" but not have any subordinates when they reached the age of 56. Under the system, the company would cut all allowances for those employees and offer no further annual wage increases for staff managers. Unhappy with the new system, the managers set up the CSU Forum in 1991 to pressure management to alter the system. The union sought to negotiate to improve the treatment of its members. The company, however, refused to sit down at the negotiating table, arguing that the managerial workers' union was not a legitimate labor union. In 1994, the CSU Forum filed a complaint that Cemedine had engaged in an unfair labor practice to Tokyo Local Labour Relations Commission. At its first meeting, the Commission judged that the CSU Forum was a valid labor union as it did not include executives, managerial workers responsible for human resource management or those having authority with respect to confidential corporate matters (people who should not be labor members under the Trade Union Law). Objecting to this decision, the company appealed to the CLRC. The CLRC also judged that the CSU Forum did not involve "those who represented the interests of the employer" and should thus be considered as a legitimate body.
It is still rare in Japan that workers in management positions are unionized. However, at many companies middle-management staff have become easy targets in restructuring exercises, which involve personnel cuts when firms have to trade out of an economic slump. Many observers predict that an increasing number of middle-management workers will unionize or join existing unions.
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