Japan Auto Unions Demand Wage Hikes Over ¥10,000

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Akihiro Kaneko, president of the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions, speaks about this year’s spring wage negotiations in Kumamoto in January.

Amid the steepest inflation in about 40 years, labor unions at major automobile manufacturers are demanding monthly pay increases of more than ¥10,000 in the annual shunto spring wage negotiations.

The unions submitted their requests for the wage increases to management on Wednesday, marking the start of full-scale bargaining for this year.

Pay increases that outpace rising prices are expected to be a major focus of the negotiations as March 15 draws near, when many companies are scheduled to give their formal replies to union demands.

Subaru Corp.’s labor union demanded a monthly wage increase of ¥10,200, which is about 60% higher than last year. Similarly, Daihatsu Motor Co.’s labor union submitted a demand for a monthly increase of ¥11,200, about 50% higher than the previous year.

The Honda Motor Workers’ Union is seeking an increase of ¥12,500 per month to base pay, more than four times last year’s demand. The wage increase demanded of Honda Motor Co. is at the highest level in 30 years, since a monthly pay rise request of ¥14,200 in 1993.

The Toyota Motor Workers’ Union, the largest in the industry, says its average demand on a per union member basis is “at the highest level in the last 20 years.”

Each labor union is making strong demands due to the increasing burden on households caused by inflation.

The core nationwide consumer price index, which excludes widely fluctuating perishables, rose 4% in December from a year before, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. The last time inflation was this high was 41 years ago in December 1981, when the effects of the second oil crisis were still being felt.

Soaring raw material costs and the weakening of the yen have led to price hikes for a wide range of daily necessities.

“Ensuring the security and stability of workers’ livelihoods is essential to improving corporate productivity,” said Akihiro Kaneko, president of the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions.

The trend in wage increases at the major automakers will be closely watched as it will likely spread to other industries during the spring wage negotiations.

Among other industries, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) is seeking an increase of around 3% for base pay, and a total of about 5% when including scheduled salary increases.

The Japanese Electrical Electronic & Information Union plans to request an increase of at least ¥7,000 for base pay, more than twice last year’s demand.

Made up mainly of small and midsize enterprises, the Japanese Association of Metal, Machinery and Manufacturing Workers plans to seek a monthly wage increase of ¥9,000.