No. 43 2005
Defend Article 9 of the Constitution and Turn the Tide in Favor of Better
Living Conditions and Expansion of Workers' Rights
Japan Research Institute of Labor Movement
January 1, 2005
Takeshi OHE (Co-President)
Kazunori OHKI (Co-President)
Tomio MAKINO (Co-President)
Sihnji OHSU (Administrative Director)
We wish you happy new year to all Rodo-soken members and readers.
Rodo-soken observed its 15th founding anniversary in December 2004. We would like
take this occasion to express our gratitude for your day-to-day support and cooperation,
which has made it possible for us to achieve a lot of achievement in its work
on theories of the movement as well as in making policy proposals.
We have entered 2005, the 60th year since the end of World War II, a crucial year
for us particularly in connection with the situation surrounding the issue of
the Constitution. Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi has said, "If the Constitution
bans Japan from exercising the right of collective security, barring the Self-Defense
Forces from joining US forces in wars outside of Japan, we should change the Constitution,"
thus publicly responding to the US demand. The prime minister, who is most responsible
for the observance of the Constitution, is now in charge of compiling a draft
constitution to be announced at the LDP convention in November on the occasion
of the party's 50th anniversary. The Komei Party, which is the ruling coalition
partner, is promoting constitutional revision by calling for some additions to
be made to the present Constitution including changes in the war-renouncing Article
9. On the opposition side, the Democratic Party has made clear that it will publish
its pan for constitutional revision by around March. In the Diet (Japanese parliament),
forces that are in favor of Constitutional revision account for 90 percent. Meanwhile,
realignments of US Forces in Japan and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are underway.
The Japanese SDF and military bases in Japan are being incorporated in the US
preemptive attack policy. As part of this scheme, the United States and Japan
are trying to relocate the US Army Corps I headquarters to Japan. The government
is also rushing to lift Japan's arms export ban.
Major commercial media keep silent about these facts. They are rather uncritically
reporting the government's outrageous moves toward adverse constitutional revision
on the premise that the Constitution will be revised. They disregard the "Article
9 Association" and various other popular movements that are active in opposition
to an adverse revision of the Constitution. All this clearly shows that there
is no room for us to be optimistic about the present situation.
It should be noted that these attacks on the Constitution are in tandem with a
large-scale attack on the living standards and rights of working people. The call
for an adverse revision of the Fundamental law of Education is louder than ever
before. The government has proposed abolishing the fixed-rate tax cuts scheme
and is openly considering raising the consumption tax rate to 15-16 % from the
present 5%. Other attacks include privatization of the postal services, promotion
of municipal mergers and local finance reform that will reduce the state's role,
introduction of a bid system for government/municipal services allowing for more
private sector participation, and policy that will legalize traffic in internal
organs. Concerning issues related to workers' living conditions and work, a series
of adverse revisions are being promoted: the call for deregulation of overtime
work rules; the so-called "white-collar exemption" that will force most
office workers to work without work-time and other restrictions under the Labor
Standards Law; total liberalization of the use of temp workers as well as the
privatization of job placement work; and a policy proposal for denying the Spring
Struggle - labor-management wage talks - and even collective labor contracts that
cover workers beyond company boundaries. It is also well known that the government
is planning to review welfare assistance, medical services, pension, nursing care,
and other social services with a view to cutting services and force consumers
to pay more for these services. The move toward adversely revising Article 9 of
the Constitution is in parallel with the plans to adversely revise the constitutional
provisions to guarantee democratic rights.
In a word, these moves to adversely revise the Constitution are a manifestation
of the oppressive and plundering policies of the Koizumi Cabinet and the business
sector undermining the Japanese people's living standards and peace.
The calls for the adverse revision of the Constitution is not in response to the
people's needs; they are mainly echoing the US demands. This is an open secret.
Japan's ruling circles are cooperating with the US Bush administration in implementing
the Neo-Con policies, thus siding with the forces seeking to rule the world with
the terror of armed attack. Their policy appears to be very effective and powerful,
but the fact is that they are increasingly isolated from the world and is quickly
losing influence. The democratic gains achieved by the Japanese people after the
end of World War II are more enormous than people may imagine. International opinion
opposing the Iraq War and wishing for world peace is growing more than ever before.
Today, in the early part of the 21st century, it would be no exaggeration to state
that the rightist policies promoted by the US and Japanese ruling circles will
A broad range of people is rising in the growing movement in opposition to the
anachronistic attacks. They are taking part in various creative forms of the movement,
such as the "Article 9 Association," the Campaign to Collect Signatures
from a Majority of the People to Stop the Adverse Revision of the Constitution,
and the "Joint Center in Opposition to Adverse Constitutional Revision,"
which Rodo-Soken takes part in. Frankly, however, the movement is not developing
fast enough to meet the present needs.
Rodo-Soken is an institute established with the aim of assisting the Japanese
trade union movement and contributing to improvement of the people's living standards.
In its 15th year Rodo-Soken will carry out a full-scale survey in cooperation
with Zenroren to help empower the trade union movement on the occasion of the
50th anniversary of the Spring Struggle. We hope that this survey will be useful
for organizing serious discussions aimed at improving Japanese workers' living
standards as well as working conditions. To this end, we call on all Rodo-Soken
members and readers of our publications to take pride in doing all we can to let
the public know the meaning of the adverse revision of the Constitution in plain
words. We call on you to participate in action to oppose adverse constitutional
revision by displaying creativity, by capitalizing on every possibility and by
showing your intelligence. Our action without doubt will prove to be very effective
in having the Constitution embraced firmly and widely by the public and in turning
the tide to improving living standards and basic rights.
Wishing Rodo-Sokan members and our readers all the best, we hope we can work together
to fulfill these tasks.
A Critique of Nippon Keidanren's Position Paper on Management and Human Resources
1. Business leaders' opinion carries an extraordinary political clout
It has become customary for Japan's business sector to announce its policy in
preparation for the annual wage talks with labor (Spring Struggle). They now maintain
that the Spring Struggle is now nonexistent. The Japan Business Federation (Nippon
Keidanren) late last year made public a policy paper compiled by its Committee
on Management and Labor Policy. Entitled "Position Paper 2005 on Management
and Human Resources - Management and Labor Working Together to Promote Further
Reforms" (December 14, 2004), it put forward the basic stance corporate management
should take in negotiations with labor in the spring of 2005.
Tightening grips on policymaking
The Nippon Keidanren position paper always draws attention from labor
as well as mass media for the following reasons:
First, the position paper, which has a circulation of 60,000 copies (according
to Nippon Keidanren), commands a large readership among not only those who are
in charge of personnel affairs at Nippon Keidanren member companies, but also
subcontractors doing business with large companies, as well as industrial organizations
and local employers' organizations. Its readers also include union officials,
in particular those at large companies, as well as labor researchers. It is internationally
exceptional that the business sector's position paper is so widely read and has
influence on the labor movement and the government's labor policy.
Second, the position paper's influence has been growing in parallel with the business
sector's grip on politics during past several years.
Previously, a similar position paper stating how the employers should deal with
workers' wage increase demands used to be published by the Japan Federation of
Employers' Associations (Nikkeiren) which existed as the business circles' group
specializing in the issue of the trade union movement including the annual Spring
Struggle. In those days, the position paper already had strong influence. In May
2002, Nippon Keidanren came into being as a result of a merger between two major
business organizations, Nikkeiren and the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations
(Keidanren). The new organization set up the Committee on Management and Labor
Policy, chaired by Masaharu SHIBATA (NGK Insulators, Ltd. chairman). Since the
position paper began to be published by this committee, it has generally been
seen as the policy paper from the general headquarters of the business sector,
thus adding to its weight.
Thirdly, Nippon Keidanren takes on some characters that the old Keidanren did
1) The business sector has its influential members take part in the discussion
of key Koizumi Cabinet policies at the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy and
the Council for Regulatory Reform, thus exerting considerable influence on policy-making.
2) By accepting U.S. and other foreign firms as members, Nippon Keidanren now
functions as what may be called a "joint committee of multinational corporations."
The Council for Regulatory Reform has a member who represents a foreign-owned
company taking part directly in the policy making.
3) Since Toyota Motor Corporation Chairman Hiroshi OKUDA became Nippon Keidanren
chairman, the financial circles' cost-cutting strategy has been accelerated more
than ever before.
4) What's more, the business sector is taking a lead in unleashing a series of
political attacks undermining living standards and threatening peace, including
a drastic adverse revision of the whole systems of pension and other social services,
a substantial increase in the consumption tax rate, the removal of the "Three
Principles of Arms Export Ban," and drafting a revision of the Constitution.
5) Apparently with the aim of pushing ahead with these undemocratic policies,
the business sector is using political donations as leverage for tightening control
over political parties. It is now publicly attempting to put not only the executive
branch but the legislative branch of government under its control.
Nippon Keidanren comprises only 1,300 companies
Apparently due to these changes in the character of the organization,
as explained by Okuda, the position paper of the Committee on Management and Labor
Policy has recently become increasingly vocal on all issues, ranging from labor
policy to the falling birthrate, aging society, pension and social services, education,
public security, and international affairs. It's like a policy statement of the
"business sector's prime minister."
Isn't this strange? Nippon Keidanren is just another business group comprising
only 1,306 large companies listed on the first section of the stock exchange (as
of May, 2004). What made it possible for Nippon Keidanren to have such a big say
on all major issues concerning national politicies, not to mention on labor problems?
The "Position Paper 2005 on Management and Human Resources" is composed
of the following three parts:
- Part 1. Current Business Environment
- Part 2. Management and Labor Issues
- Part 3. Leadership and Proactive Management.
Its disorderly compilation and ambiguous texts make it very difficult for readers
to grasp the points. At any rate, let me walk you through the paper's points of
2. Has Business Sector's Wage Cut Policy Changed?
Nippon Keidanren's position on the wage issue has three major problems. One is
that it is trying to cut wages as much as possible.
At individual enterprises
Some media have reported that in the 2005 position paper Nippon Keidanren
has begun to approve a wage increase, reversing its 2004 policy that called for
holding down wages. The 2005 position paper includes descriptions that can be
taken as Keidanren's acceptance of pay raise. It stated that "individual
companies are free to decide to raise their wage levels according to labor-management
agreement" and that "it would be necessary for companies that have improved
business performance to give workers rewards for their efforts."
This implies that how absurd it is for large companies to pursue a policy of cutting
workers' wages while reporting record profits and paying biggest ever dividends
However, business leaders certainly have not given up their policy of holding
down workers' wages. The position paper points out the need for corporations recovering
business performance to give workers rewards for their efforts with bonus. But
it also says that there should be no pay raise that would lead to a long-term
increase in fixed labor cost.
On basic wage hike, it says, "Given tough international competition and uncertain
prospects for business performance, raising wages, already high by international
standards, any further is not a realistic option." It also says, "[R]eviewing
systems for the annual increment and retirement benefits is an important issue
again this year." On the grounds that Japan's overall economic situation
calls for wage control on a proper level, it calls for the policy of wage restraint
to be maintained even in times of "business recovery."
This year's position paper, as in the last year's, calls for the strategy for
promoting goals as a "true trading nation with human resources to support
these efforts" to be maintained. Nippon Keidanren put forward this strategy
in the "New Vision" published in January 2003, under the title of "JAPAN
2025: Envisioning A Vibrant, Attractive Nation in the Twenty-first Century."
In a word, it aims to drastically change the way people work and live or to lower
their levels, so that Japanese multinational corporate giants can make as large
profits as possible in Japan as well as abroad. From this, it is clear that business
circles are adhering to the wage-cut policy.
Do they think that such a policy will be tenable in the 21st century world?
In international comparison of wage levels, Japan no longer a top runner. It now
ranks low among the major countries.
At a time when wage levels are improving in Asia, Europe and the rest of the world,
Japanese workers are experiencing a non-stop wage cut offensive. In an international
comparison of purchasing power parity, Japan is ranking as low as developing countries.
As personal consumption continues to decline and postal savings and bank deposits
decrease, Japan is still unable to get on a track of economic recovery and is
often criticized at international conferences for hampering the growth of the
Despite this, the business sector under Okuda's leadership is urging the government
to do more to assist large corporations in cost reduction. This, however, is the
way to further impoverish workers.
3. Business Leaders Go against World's Common Sense by Denying Collective
In disregard of the growing contradictions, the corporate sector still clings
to the merit-based wage system.
Reflecting the fact that many companies are facing various difficulties
caused by the merit-based wage system, books criticizing this wage system are
selling like hot cakes. This being the circumstance, the 2005 Nippon Keidanren
position paper admits that there are many points to bear in mind in administering
the merit-based wage system. Nevertheless, it maintains that the need now is to
establish personnel and wage systems that accord with skills, results and degrees
of contributions. But such systems will only have a devastating effect on the
How can the merit-based wage system produce results at a time when it is widely
regarded as problematic? The solution Nippon Keidanren presents at best in its
position paper is "introduction of a system commensurate with each company."
It can offer nothing but such an empty statement, a clear demonstration that their
wage policy is in deadlock.
What is more, the 2005 position paper denies outright the international common
sense that management should decide on wage and working conditions through collective
bargaining. This is also one of the rights of workers and their unions that have
long been guaranteed in Japan.
Believe it or not, the position paper states that "a base wage increase in
the sense of a yearly uniform base wage increase on the wage curve for all employees
no longer performs in any meaningful way." It also says that an era of "'shunto'
(annual labor-management negotiations - editor) over wage increase has ended."
It says that "yearly management-labor negotiation should take on a new role
by shifting its focus more on discussion-centered meetings, where the management
and labor discuss various issues concerning enterprise management, and examine
measures to perform their tasks." It goes on to say that the term "basic
wage increase" which is a reminder of across-the-board pay increases of old
days should be changed to "revision of wages."
These arguments should be seen as a de facto refusal of collective bargaining
on labor contracts and a rejection of establishing social compact on wages and
working conditions. Business circles intend to allow individual companies to determine
wages and working conditions according to management's judgment and assessment.
The position paper reiterates its opinion that in determining wages companies
should take into account corporate performance, international competitiveness,
employees' abilities, achievements and contributions to better business performance,
and multi-track wage administration. These conditions are all beneficial to companies
and in disregard of the working and living conditions.
The Nippon Keidanren Committee on Management and Labor Policy consists of 35 members,
who are presidents, board chairs, honorary advisors, and executive advisors. Do
they think that their anachronistic demands are acceptable at home and internationally,
in particular by the International Labor Organization (ILO)?
To begin with, do they believe that Japanese workers support their self-centered
argument? The fact that their policy is going astray and falling behind the times
is explained by their wage policy. The biggest weakness of the business sector's
wage policy is represented by their lack of vision to offer workers. They are
unable to offer any plans that would lead to wage increases, better living conditions,
or the establishment of social justice. Are the business circles qualified to
talk of a private-sector-led "social reform"?
4. Inability to Hammer out Measures to Declining Field Ability
In Japan, the declining and collapsing technological base is a major industrial
concern. Many companies, which used to take pride in their high precision and
high technological standards, are now experiencing frequent accidents and increasing
defective products. Trust in Japanese products is being eroded at home and abroad.
A Challenge in management strategy
The position paper concedes that there has been little improvement of
the situation in which workers' capabilities and experience are declining on the
ground and calls for efforts to restore and enhance them in each enterprise.
It also raises concerns over an increasing number of young people called job-hopping
part-timers and NEET (young people not in education, employment or training).
It warns that an increase in the number of young people without proper job skills
could result in decreasing Japan's international competitiveness. But the business
sector's awareness of the problem and its measures to deal with it are very inadequate.
What's more, they are pushing ahead with policies that will only help exacerbate
For example, the position paper attributes the shortage of human resources to:
(1) a lack of efficient communications in places of work, (2) difficulty in transferring
skills to young workers due to the reluctance to hire young workers and to an
increase in fixed-term employment, and (3) the decrease in human resource connected
to mandatory retirement and job cuts carried out by corporations. But the paper
does not refer to the root cause of the problem: corporate cost-cutting restructuring.
In other words, it lacks recognition of the need to find ways to enhance job skills
for all workers in the workplace.
While admitting that despite the recent "economic recovery," the situation
remains tough for small- and medium-sized enterprises and local economies, the
position paper apparently fails to recognize that this state of affairs represents
a major cause of the declining manufacturing power.
This is why all they can propose are stopgap measures calling for improvement
of workers' job skills, improvement of workplace communications, reevaluation
of roles of managerial staff, appraisal of worker contributions with intellectual
skills, and consideration of introducing a meister system. It has no measures
to propose for dealing with the root causes.
The 2005 position paper states that it is extremely difficult to solely rely on
cost-cutting strategy to compete with China, "the world's factory,"
thus admitting that it is wrong to try to win the competition solely through cutting
costs. It also says that if Japan is to restore the manufacturing base, it to
give priority to establishing the manufacturing base and maintaining good storage
of "tacit knowledge." It also points out the need for enterprises to
be attractive to workers as companies that give them worthwhile job opportunities
and that this in itself can be a major factor for maintaining competent workers.
All these arguments should make it necessary to a reexamination of the cost cutting
restructuring strategy and the merit-based wage system. In fact, some companies
are beginning to review their policies.
In favor with multinational companies
However, the conclusion that the business sector led by Okuda arrived
at was opposite to what I have stated above. They have made it clear that they
will reform business structures in proactive restructuring efforts as a way to
break the present stalemate.
What is "proactive restructuring?"
Judging from the position paper, it means a policy of tailoring Japan's industries
and economy for the business sector and multinationals. It proposes three main
ways to carry out "proactive restructuring" in the private sector. First,
utilize "diversified workforce" to increase corporate competitiveness.
Second, give U.S. and other foreign companies a wider market access to stimulate
competition with domestic companies. Third, accept foreign workers and create
a favorable environment for non-Japanese workers to get jobs.
Multinational giants have found that they can increase profitability by utilizing
foreign capital and workforce and further consolidating or eliminating Japanese
companies, while drastically cutting down on wages and working conditions and
subcontractors' contract terms.
This is how the question of collapsing technological and manufacturing power is
being ignored due to the policy of pursuing cost-cutting strategy as the highest
priority. Business circles are to blam for their failure to deal with this serious
problem, which is tantamount to a death sentence for all.
5. Increasing Non-regular Workers and Gutting the Labor Laws
The conditions of Japanese workers today are like those of British workers in
the 19th century. Lawlessness is prevalent in all aspects, including working hours,
wages, work-related accidents and diseases, and dismissals. Many workers are left
without legal protection. Things are particularly serious because of a rapid increase
in the number of non-regular workers, including part-timers, temporary workers
and fixed-term contract workers. The situation is so serious that many people
are trying hard to improve it.
Appalling policy proposal
The position paper acknowledges the growth of unstable employment, saying,
"The use of non-direct employment, such as temporary workforce or labor contracts,
is on the increase nowadays." This, however, leads to an absurd policy proposal.
Using the increase in the number of non-regular staff in the workplace as a pretext,
the position paper says that there should no longer be differentiation between
regular workers and non-regular workers, and proposes that more flexibility should
be applied to the use of full-time workers concerning work hours, location and
workplace, breaking away from the conventional framework. Thus, full-time workers
will also be treated in the same way as part-time workers.
In equity investment, one may use the method of "portfolio investment"
that allocates funds to different stocks in order to maximize profit. The position
paper emphasizes the importance of the need to "pursue optimal portfolio"
in making the use of workers as effective as possible. It thus demands that law
of the economy in the stock market be strictly applied to the use of workers.
The question here is that this way of using workers conflicts with the labor laws,
including the Labor Standards Law, the Employment Security Law, and the Minimum
Wage Law. The 2005 position paper for the first time called outright for gutting
the labor laws. Below are a series of self-centered corporate demands:
1) Most white-collar workers on clerical, managerial, and sales jobs should be
exempt from the Labor Standards Law provisions regulating working hours.
2) The present regulations that require companies using temporary workers to offer
labor contracts to those working on a long-term basis should be abolished.
3) In the manufacturing sector, where the ban on the use of temporary staffing
workers was lifted to some extent, employers should be allowed to use such workers
for a longer period.
4) The increased Labor Standards Inspection Office oversight of working conditions,
including working hours, could hamper the corporate efforts to increase international
5) The minimum wage by industry should be eliminated.
6) It is important to establish a system making it easier for workers to switch
jobs. For this, deregulation (privatization) of job placement services should
be considered seriously to enable private sector firms to take part in competitive
7) New legislation of labor contracts, now under consideration, should include
drastic revisions of relevant labor laws, including the Labor Standards Law that
inherit the relic of the Factory Law. This will make the labor laws consistent
with the present conditions.
Repeated acts of contravening labor laws
All this shows that business circles are now trying to make their illegitimate
practices legitimate, instead of apologizing to the public for their repeated
acts of contravening the laws.
The fundamental question here is that the business sector wants to abnegate the
significance of social standards and industrial relations and even the importance
of the Constitution. They say, "working conditions in enterprises should
basically be decided through negotiation and consultation by labor and management
acting autonomously." However, in a law-governed country, working conditions
at individual enterprises are not determined only through labor talks. The constitutional
provisions for human rights protection are the basis for labor regulations, and
working conditions should be determined based on these laws. Further, working
conditions must be determined through collective bargaining between companies
and trade unions as fair social standards that override individual enterprises.
This is the principle of industrial relations. The business sector led by Okuda
is attacking this principle. This is nothing less than an attack on the supreme
6. Plunder of Public Assets by Opening Up Public Service to the Private Sector
Another pillar of "proactive restructuring" proposed in the position
paper is "resolute execution of administrative reform" and "promotion
of the private sector's participation in public services."
The position paper asserts that it is necessary to allow more private sector participation
in public services based on the principle that any work that can be dealt with
by the private sector should be left to the private sector. Allowing private sector
firms to participate in bidding for public sector contracts is the effective way
to promote it. This sounds reasonable. Let's examine the meaning of the policy
of opening up public services to the private sector.
Corruption will deepen
In August 2004, the Council for Regulatory Reform, which is under Prime
Minister Koizumi's direct control, published a report entitled "Realization
of a Private-Sector-Led Economic Society Through Opening Up of Government-Operated
Services to Private Sector." It examines all government enterprises that
could be consigned to the private sector. It concludes that most of the public
services can be dealt with by the private sector, including payment of benefits,
collection of fees for services, the maintenance, administration and management
of public facilities, and work related to registration, statistical surveys, production,
inspections, and certification.
In other words, most of the jobs done at government offices can be outsourced
to for-profit companies using tax money. Most of the Council for Regulatory Reform
members are executives of the companies that will benefit from the policy of opening
up public services to the private sector.
What will happen if most of the public services are open to the private sector?
Many residents are concerned about the policy because: (1) the state and local
governments will be relieved of their responsibility to safeguard public well-being;
(2) the services will differ from company to company, and equality and fairness
will not be ensured; (3) in the longer run, it will become more costly, and (4)
graft and other corrupt practices will be even more rampant.
Privatizing public services such as the post office, which is meeting the needs
of the public, will only cause unnecessary confusion and damage to the public.
This is clear from the ongoing process of transforming state-run institutions
into independent agencies. It is irresponsible to see public services and for-profit
business under the same light in bidding for contracts for public services.
Why is Nippon Keidanren trying to allow the private sector to undertake public
services? The answer is simple. Due to corporate "restructuring" assets
that companies can plunder are decreasing, and they now want to take the ion's
share in state and municipal assets and tax money. Economists describe the opening
of public services to the private sector as "vivisection and trafficking
internal organs" of the state and municipalities.
In a bid to carry out the policy of opening up public services to the private
sector, the position paper demands a drastic reform of the system of state and
local government employees. It states that only when government employees are
put in the private sector environment, can they be ready to tackle genuinely courageous
structural reform. This can be taken to mean that public sector employees can
better perform their jobs under worsening working conditions and in unstable employment.
This clearly shows that the business sector understands nothing about the significance
of "public services." The need now is to establish fair employment and
working conditions in public services, and to use it as leverage to improve the
working conditions for private sector workers.
In addition, the business sector is seeking to take money out of people's wallets.
The position paper clearly states the need to raise the consumption tax rate in
fiscal 2007 to 10 percent from the present 5 percent, and to 15-16 percent in
the subsequent 5-6 years. It also advocates cuts in social welfare benefits.
Devastating effect on living conditions
In Japan, the average personal savings rate has declined to six percent
from around 23 percent, and the number of needy households is on the rise. It
cannot be possible that business circles are not aware of devastating effects
tripling the consumption tax rate will have on living standards. The main reason
they give for calling for a consumption tax rate increase is the huge fiscal deficit.
However, a massive tax increase without removing the causes of the fiscal deficit
such as investment in unnecessary public works projects and payment of high-rate
interests to banks will only increase deficit. A sizeable increase in the consumption
tax rate is necessary just to enable large corporations, domestic and foreign,
to continue to benefit from the nation's coffer.
Recently I read a book written by a foreigner, entitled "The Iron Kleptocracy:
The Sun Never Rise Again." The title speaks for itself. Indeed, it reminds
me of the national strategy of "structural reform" and opening public
services to the private sector, as called for by the position paper.
7. Japan Falls Behind the World in Fulfilling Corporate Social Responsibility
Japan's large corporate executives use the analogy of the "Black Ships"
(which came to Japan toward the end of the feudal period of Edo with the aim of
ending Japan's isolation) to explain their present concerns about corporate social
From the moment the European Commission in July 2001 published entitled "Promoting
a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility," the concept of
CSR was widely accepted as an international norm, urging corporations, particularly
multinationals, to comply with the standards.
Lack of Understanding
Japan's business circles initially opposed CSR. They could not stand
CSR's key provisions that corporations should operate by carefully taking into
full account of the interest of shareholders, including employees, contractors,
and local residents.
Later, they sent a team abroad to study this matter. Once they realized that it
will be difficult to operate overseas without complying with CSR, they began to
express willingness to put CSR into practice. The position paper refers to Corporate
Social Responsibility at the top of the chapter on Leadership and Proactive Management,
but their arguments reveal that do not really understand what CSR is.
First, the position paper describes CSR as a matter that exclusively concerns
companies' "activities for public interests." This clearly is an ill-intentioned
interpretation because the CSR is mainly about the standards governing industrial
relations that include personnel management, safety and health, worker transfers,
and the environment. Externally, it also deals with corporate responsibility to
local residents, business contractors and subcontractors, and consumers. It also
calls for corporate responsibility to defend and improve human rights situations.
If CSR is to be applied to Japan, companies will have the responsibility to give
shape to and fully implement the democratic provisions of the Constitution. Have
those who drafted the position paper ever read the EU document?
Second, the position paper implies that business leaders believe that they can
fulfill their social responsibility by adhering to the Charter of Corporate Behavior
of their own making. But that is not so.
The need is to put into practice the publicly established standards. If Japan
refuses to ratify many of the International Labor Organization conventions and
turns a deaf ear to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recommendations,
they will never be trusted even though they emphasize their compliance with laws.
Third, business circles conspicuously lack a sense of responsibility for corporate
They cannot take corporate frauds as their own problem
The position paper is not serious about corporate frauds, as clear from
its way of describing the matter as "any corporate scandal that erupts..."
Many Nippon Keidanren member companies have so far been involved in illegal activities;
even the Nippon Keidanren chair's own company has been charged with such frauds
as forcing workers to work overtime without pay, tax evasion, and a leakage of
national examination questions. We must call into question the position paper
authors' sense of heavy responsibility of corporations?
If it talks about corporate social responsibility, Nippon Keidanren must unravel
the root cause of a series of corporate scandals and show their sincerity by publicly
to carry out structural reform of member companies and itself.
8. Solidarity with Asian Countries and CSR
Business circles' response to CSR reminds me that executive of Japan's large corporations
and business leaders fall behind the rest of the 21st century world. That is why
they reveal the inability to show leadership in the nation's industries as well
as in the economy.
Solution is not in sight
For example, the position paper offers nothing to help solve the present
problems facing local economies as well as small- and medium-sized businesses,
although it more or less is aware of the present difficulty. In fact the position
paper admits that small- and medium-sized enterprises are not necessarily on a
recovery track, that they are facing the danger of hollowing out main urban areas,
the breakdown of operational bases, overseas transfers of production bases, and
the disintegration of communities. It also expresses concern that the decrease
in population may exacerbate the already declining local economies.
The position paper also puts forward "promotion of economic partnership with
Asia" and calls for a relationship of co-existence and co-prosperity to be
established with China. How can Japanese business circles seek to establish co-existence
and co-prosperity with China. Such a call contradicts their full support for Prime
Minister Koizumi's persistent visits to Yasukuni Shrine, their promotion of arms
exports, and their tacit approval of the defense plan that sees China as an imaginary
enemy, not to mention their call for an adverse constitutional revision.
Nippon Keidanren in July 2003 published a report entitled "Labor-Management
Relations in Asia," which focused on how to ensure the success of Japanese
companies abroad. It had nothing to do with the quest for co-existence and co-prosperity.
The position paper mentions nothing about its vision for realistic "economic
partnership with Asia."
The last section of the position paper is devoted to the importance of corporate
leaders' "aspirations." If we continue to leave Japan's economy to them,
our society will face a real danger of collapse. In that event, Japanese people'
may be forced to endure living conditions that are worse than those of animals.
However, corporate executives alone cannot run the country's economy and society.
Knowledgeable corporate executives should bear this in mind. The main players
are working people, who are the majority of the population. Corporate executives
should focus their attention on workers' needs and concerns.
If in the 2005 Spring Struggle corporate executives are serious enough to try
to listen to workers' demands and understand what lie behind the demands, it will
pave the way for building industrial relations commensurate with an era of CSR.
9. For New Progress in the Spring Struggle in its 50th Year
Although the position paper calls for a shift of the labor-management negotiation
style from "the 'struggle' of the traditional 'shunto' (literally meaning
'spring struggle') to more discussion-centered meetings," the 2005 Spring
Struggle in its 50th year has started with vigor.
The plan of action put forward by the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
states: "Trade unions are advancing steadily against any furious attacks
from the government and business circles. In 2004, our movement successfully foiled
business circles' attempt to lower the minimum wage, winning an increase in local
minimum pay in 44 prefectures. In the struggle against the adverse revision of
the Labor Standards Law, the union movement blocked the introduction of a provision
that will give the employers freedom to dismiss workers. The campaign to eliminate
unpaid overtime work has succeeded in having companies pay more than 23 billion
yen in back pay for overtime work for one year. These are valuable results achieved
recently by the trade union movement.
Professional baseball players, too
The Professional Baseball Players' Association, the players' union, won
a victory in its struggle last year. The trade union movement has grown stronger
through the many years of struggles. The position paper reveals its complete lack
of understanding of how strong popular movements are, including the trade union
Certainly, the challenges facing the trade union movement today are not small.
First, we need to look at the fact that both union membership and the percentage
workers in unions are in declines. In the five years between 2000 and 2004, the
number of union members decreased by 1,516,000, and the estimated percentage of
organized labor declined to 19.2 percent from 22.2 percent. Unions are too slow
in recruiting new members, while many union members are now reaching retirement
age, in particular among the baby-boomers. What is particularly grave is their
failure to deal with the sharp increase in the number of part-time and other contingent
workers and young workers' reluctance to join the union.
Second, the pressing task now is for trade unions to pass down the leadership
of the union movement to young activists.
Third, many unions, in particular those large company unions affiliated with the
Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), are under firm corporate control and
influence. The point is that an increasing number of unions at large companies
do not even present their demands, acting instead in harmony with business circles'
strategy. This makes it even more urgent to stop unfair labor practices against
workers who are union members and to establish trade union independence from capital.
The business sector, led by Nippon Keidanren Chairman Hiroshi OKUDA, makes self-centered
proposals on the grounds that management and labor should act autonomously. This
is made possible by the increasing corporate control of unions and by divisive
ideological attacks based on the corporate-first principle, anti-communism, and
neo-liberalism. Workers now need a unified development of the trade union movement.
Japan's working class has been waging the annual Spring Struggle in defiance of
all difficulties. A recent survey found that about 80 percent of companies set
up labor talks concerning wages and working conditions either with trade unions
or with employees' representatives. This shows that the Spring Struggle has had
influence on the workplace without union environment and that many unorganized
workers are actually taking part in actions that take place as part of the Spring
Signs of progress
The 2005 Spring Struggle has shown many signs of the movement's progress:
(1) young workers are beginning to take active part in various campaigns; (2)
more and more workers tell labor counselors that hey wan to establish or join
a union; (3) with privatization and corporate restructuring going on, more and
more workers are joining unions; (4) industrial federations have started to work
seriously to organize non-full time workers; (5) the movement to demand that companies
observe the Labor Standards Law and the Industrial Safety and Health Law and to
call on companies to fulfill their social responsibility; and (6) regional federations
are taking initiatives in carrying forward the movement to establish regional
pay rates. All these indicate that the Spring Struggle is taking new steps toward
The 2005 Spring Struggle revolves around the choice between two directions: one
led by the government and business circles in trying to have the law of the jungle
prevail and turn the Japan into war-fighting nation, and the other led by the
movement of workers and the people to establish a safer, more equitable, and peaceful
The Joint Committee for the People's Spring Struggle, composed of Zenroren and
other organizations, is calling on workers to rise in the historic Spring Struggle
to defend the Constitution and win democratic change in Japan. The development
of the struggle will publicly expose the arrogance and anachronistic nature of
Nippon Keidanren's position.