Japan's annual 'Spring Labour Offensive' opened on Saturday (26 January) with 50,000 Trade Unionists demonstrating in support of a 30-per-cent pay rise to meet the spiralling living costs.
Japan's annual 'Spring Labour Offensive' opened on Saturday (26 January) with 50,000 Trade Unionists demonstrating in support of a 30-per-cent pay rise to meet the spiralling living costs. Organised by the General Council of Trade Unionists of Japan (SOHYO), who represent 4.5 million of Japan's 34 million workers, and the Japanese Confederation of Labour, representing a further 2.5 million, the demonstrators marched from Meji Park in the western part of the city to the Diet (Parliamentary building) in central Tokyo.
Both labour organisations, together with some smaller unions, are calling for a minimum monthly wage increase of 30,000 Yen (46 pounds sterling, 100 dollars U.S.) for their workers. They also want additional winter and summer bonus payments.
Saturday's peaceful demonstration was, said the Unions, only the beginning of what could become a protracted battle with the Government and employers. A ten-day general strike has already been planned for March, imvolving millions of workers.
So far, the Tanaka Government has refused to use the word "inflation" in reference to the rising consumer price index, which has increased by 30 per cent in the past twelve months. It has been the worst year for price rises since the Korean War. Oil has doubled in price, affecting not only transport costs, but the wide range of petrochemicals, from plastics to chemicals.
Food has been the worst hit, with periodic hoarding and panic-buying by housewives, wholesalers and retailers. Two items, for example, toilet paper and detergent, have doubled in price since November.
Although economic observers do not deny that the workers have a cause for complaint, they do point out they have fringe benefits from their companies that workers in other countries do not. Free housing, subsidised shops and canteens, and often free travel are all part of the Japanese industrial way of life. The companies also provide free medical care for their employees, so many workers will not be worried by the 19-per cent medical-fee increase scheduled for February.