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Monday, May 23, 2011
Wage cuts for reconstruction
The wage levels of national public servants have been determined based on recommendations by the National Personnel Authority every year since 1948. The system makes up for the restrictions imposed on government workers' basic labor rights, including the right to strike.
Without the NPA's recommendations, the Kan administration plans to reduce the wages of national public servants. It aims to use the savings from wage cuts to rebuild the Tohoku-Pacific areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
At first, the government planned to cut wages by a uniform 10 percent to save some ¥300 billion. Facing opposition, it proposed May 17 an average cut of 8 percent — 10 percent for ministry division chiefs and higher-ranking officials, 8 percent for ministry deputy division chiefs, and 5 percent for workers in lower ranks.
The Democratic Party of Japan's manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election called for reducing total personnel costs for national public servants by 20 percent.
The basic law for national public service reform enacted in 2008 envisaged enacting related bills in three years. The NPA's recommendations would be abolished and labor conditions such as wage levels and working hours would be determined through labor-management negotiations.
The March 11 catastrophe has delayed the submission of the bills to the Diet. The government appears to think that government workers won't oppose wage cuts if they understand that the cuts will go toward the creation of postdisaster reconstruction funds. In the absence of a bill that allows government workers the right to conclude an agreement on working conditions in accordance with the Labor Union Law, their opposition to the wage cut plan is understandable.
At the very least, the government should present a definite time table for restoring the basic rights of national public servants.
The Finance Ministry is thinking of cutting grants to local governments to pay for wages of local public servants. This is untenable. Local governments have already economized a lot. Local government workers' wage levels should be decided locally.