Govt./Labor Summit with PM Koizumi
Demands on Priority Policy Issues and G8 Summit
25 May 2005
On May 25th, RENGO President Sasamori, Acting President Hitomi, and General Secretary Kusano met with Prime Minister Koizumi to have a Government-Labor meeting at the Prime Minister's Office. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda and Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Otsuji were among the attendees from the government. RENGO officials presented their priority policy demands that included such issues as responses to employment problems, social security system fundamental reform, the legislation of equal treatment for part-time workers, establishment of basic rights in labor for public servants, as well as the G8 Summit.
President Sasamori began the meeting by presenting demands for urgent priority policy issues and the G-8 Summit meeting. The following is an outline:
- Although employment appears to be recovering on the macro level, unstable and/or low-wage hiring is on the rise, and it is poor quality. The government should fund public investments that are directly linked to basic livelihoods including welfare and countermeasures against disasters, and create jobs;
- The Committee on Social Security Review established within the Cabinet Office discussed the social security system issues including pensions and has come up with its points of debate, but Diet deliberations are too late. Diet deliberations should take place at the same time as the committee debates. We will request on this matter to the Democratic Party of Japan as well. Medical care, especially for the elderly, will be the biggest social security issue. It is crucial to conduct activities for health and preventive medicine in harmony with local societies and that government, labor, and management also show greater effort on these issues of cooperation. We also hope to continue careful discussions on taxes, especially sales taxes;
- Although the Part-Time Workers' Law bill was pushed back to the next Diet session without having been given proper debate, we want this bill legislated no matter what. The matter of work-sharing, which was supposed to be promoted under the auspices of the Prime Minister, has not shown any progress precisely due to this delay in deliberations. Equal treatment for workers should be promoted immediately and we demand that the government work vigorously to legislate the bill;
- The public servant system needs fundamental reform including a necessary review process for scandals like those that continue to occur. Just as business organizations have made certain proposals, we think the government, labor, and management also need to discuss problems regarding basic rights and wages. Further, public servant’s wages have become a controversial topic at the Fiscal System Council within the Ministry of Finance, where they continue to debate the issue trying to properly sort out the various kinds of public servants rather than simply lumping them all together. Also, as half of the local government officers have already had their wages cut we think it is too much to ask to reduce their wages even further;
- Trade union representatives from each G8 nation will meet for discussions at the Labour Summit on June 28th with British Prime Minister Blair. RENGO demanded that the government make appropriate and adequate efforts for the G8 Summit based on its requests.
After each group spoke of their own individual efforts and opinions, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda indicated that he intended to hold another meeting like this again in the beginning of the fall saying that "we are now standing on the starting line of a new recognition that the declining birthrate is the biggest problem facing our 21st century. We want the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy to discuss this matter and how it will be turned into a social movement; we also would like to receive input from each group on their determination and proposals and take those into consideration when compiling the budget.”
Acting RENGO President Hitomi said that RENGO learned that public servants wage problems and other issues are under discussion at the Cabinet Office’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, but as this matter is linked to basic labor rights and given the present circumstances, RENGO wants it to be handled properly by the National Personnel Authority. In response, Prime Minister Koizumi stated first that it was his understanding that employment has been improving overall and that there are many jobs available. Yet he did acknowledge problems with NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and 'poor matching' even noting that the NEET issue was especially grave. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hosoda said: 1) the next round of discussions on social security by the Committee on Social Security Review will begin with the topic of burdens and benefits. We will continue discussions and hope to reach a settlement in FY 2007; and 2) Labor costs for civil servants employed by the national government runs 4.7 trillion yen annually and 26 trillion yen for local government employees. To recover primary balance we will need 20 trillion yen. We must think about ways to downsize while considering this general financial situation. Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Otsuji revealed that they would like to maintain government-labor consultations on the issue of public servant system reform as well as holding solid discussions with RENGO in the future and that there would be no changes in continuing good faith talks. Furthermore, Prime Minister Koizumi commented on the public servant issue by saying that any revision of their benefits, for instance, should first be categorized as to whether or not it is necessary and then examined. Whether or not this can be done at the National Personnel Authority is one of the issues that ought to be reconsidered, organized, and pushed ahead with.