(Tokyo Shimbun: December 9, 2015- p. 3)
By Miyuki Ando
The policies for a dynamic society of 100 million people will affect the livelihood of all workers. We asked Rikio Kozu, who has just become the chairman of the largest labor group in Japan, the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), to give his comments.
Q: What do you think of the new “three arrows”?
Kozu: My feeling is they are replacing the first three arrows that failed to produce any “growth.” These can well be regarded as election-oriented. However, it is appropriate to focus on child and nursing care.
Q: The government is proposing a wage increase of 3% each year to achieve a GDP of 600 trillion yen.
Kozu: Coming up with the 3% figure simply by calculating based on 600 trillion yen will only be pie in the sky. I think they do not understand labor-management relations. Wage increases are the result of patient negotiations. This figure does not have any basis.
Q: The demand for wage increase was made through government-private sector dialogue between cabinet ministers and corporate executives.
Kozu: Regarding operators of big companies as the “private sector” is based on the notion of the trickle-down effect (if the big companies profit, this will also benefit small and mid-size enterprises). There are plenty of companies that will not be able to raise wages. If the fruits of labor are not distributed to workers in small and mid-size businesses and non-regular employees to make everyone feel that wages can indeed increase, they will not be motivated to spend money or to raise a family.
Q: How feasible is a birth rate of 1.8 or zero job separation for nursing care reasons?
Kozu: There is no clear plan and these are only slogans. The Abe administration is also easing labor regulations, such as by revising the Manpower Dispatching Business Law. It is engaged in reckless driving – applying brakes while also stepping on the accelerator.
Q: What will be your main point of contention with the Abe administration in the House of Councillors election next summer?
Kozu: If we highlight the standpoint of the common people, the consumers, the taxpayers, and the workers, differences (with the Abe administration) will be evident. It is also necessary to create a political situation where (the ruling party and opposition forces in the Diet) are more or less evenly matched, in order to force the Abe administration to engage in dialogue.