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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 16 - 22  > Spring Struggle focusing on eradication of disparities
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2008 January 16 - 22 [LABOR]
editorial 

Spring Struggle focusing on eradication of disparities

January 13, 2008
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Last year, nationwide struggles won a number of successes in the effort to reverse the rising poverty rate and widening social disparities. The task now is to increase this effort in the ongoing 2008 Spring Struggle.

Trade union movement at present

An increase in the number of contingent workers is the primary factor contributing to the increasing poverty rate and widening gaps between rich and poor. On this issue, it is important to note that young temporary workers who had been treated as individual contractors won full-time positions at Koyo Sealing Techno. They are members of the All-Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers’ Union affiliated with the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren).

In Japan, the regional minimum wages were raised in two digit numbers for the first time in nearly 10 years. Public sector workers won a wage increase for the first time in 8 years.

In achieving these successes, trade unions played an important role in increasing public criticism of the government’s neo-liberal structural reform policy that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

Combining economic demands with political demands

Big business talks a lot about the “uncertainty in the economic outlook” or “the need to increase international competitiveness”. However, even the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) states, “At a time when the economic outlook is not clear, if Japan is to make efforts to ensure stable economic growth, it is necessary to build an economy with business and households growing in tandem.”

During the 5 years since 2001, large corporations almost doubled their ordinary profits, from 15.3 trillion yen to 32.8 trillion yen. In contrast, workers’ annual earnings fell 191,000 yen. This shows how corporate successes have been made possible at the cost of the household economy.

Companies have saved 217.8 trillion yen in internal reserves. Even if some of their internal reserve is diverted to workers’ pay increases, their international competitiveness will not be affected.

Two national trade union centers - the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) - are calling for wage increases, including a raise in the minimum wage, improvement in the treatment of contingent workers and their promotion to full-time positions, revision of the Worker Dispatch Law, and an end to excessively long hours of work.

Once workers achieve these goals, it will help to boost personal consumption and domestic demand and reduce the widening gap between rich and poor. It will also contribute to the healthy development of Japan’s economy.

It is also important for unions to step up their opposition to government policies such as tax increases and cutbacks in welfare services. Such policies have seriously affected the household economy through shifting heavier burdens of taxes and social insurance contributions onto the working people.
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