Trade union movement can't be revived without caring for members' opinion

Commenting on major metal firms' March 16 replies to the Japan Council of Metal Workers' Unions (IMF-JC) that there will be no base-wage increase this year, Akahata of March 17 said that the trade union movement won't be revived unless trade unions care for members' opinions.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), in its central committee meeting last November, decided to give up a concerted base wage increase demand. The IMF-JC, consisting of major trade unions in the automobile and electronics industries, followed the example in giving up a demand for a united base wage increase.

The Toyota Motor Union's decision to give up the demand for a base wage increase for three years while the company is expecting the highest ever profit of 1.2 trillion yen has played a decisive role in dashing the workers' hopes for a wage increase. It has helped to create among workers the atmosphere that a wage increase is impossible even though corporate profits may be high. This atmosphere has created the fear of demanding a wage increase.

Behind the corporate business recovery is the workers' deteriolating work conditions with the corporate restructuring, wage cuts, subcontractor bullying, long working hours, and excessively tight work schedules. Corporations have the social responsibility to respond to their difficulties, and trade unions have a role to play in alleviating them.

However, it is a routine for many corporate unions in the auto and electronics industries to sit at wage negotiation tables with a spring struggle policy decided by a handful of union officials without holding workplace meetings to hear members' opinions.

In the IMF-JC negotiations with corporations, the focus was on how much bonuses can be increased because of the recovering business performances. Some unions obtained the highest ever amount as an answer. The problem is that bonuses are not a steady support for livelihood.

There can be no "revival" of the trade union movement unless trade unions make efforts to listen to individual members and carefully draft policies that reflect members' demands.

This is not an end to this year's spring struggle. A struggle calling for a wage increase and better working conditions is developing to an unprecedented degree because it is integrated with a struggle for narrowing the gap between part-time and full-time workers including equal treatment, as well as for a base wage increase for unorganized workers and workers with low wages in small- and medium enterprises. The struggle to repel the wage cut attacks of large corporations and financial circles in solidarity with a wide range of workers is the only way to revive people's livelihoods and the Japanese economy. (end)

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