Electronics giant's workers limited by restructuring

Pioneer’s union to exit unified talks on wages


The labor union of Pioneer Corp. plans to withdraw from a unified campaign being pressed by an umbrella body for electronics makers’ unions when this year’s “shunto” spring wage talks get under way, sources said.

Pioneer’s union wants to demand a monthly pay scale increase of ¥4,000 or more and an annual bonus equivalent to at least four months’ salary — a unified wage request decided by the Japanese Electrical, Electronic & Information Union — but is finding it difficult to do so because it is undergoing restructuring, according to the sources.

The Pioneer union will thus refrain from joining the umbrella body’s unified campaign for the second consecutive year. It is the first electronics maker to pull out of this year’s campaign.

In fiscal 2012, which ended in March 2013, Pioneer suffered a group net loss of ¥19.552 billion after sales slumped for its mainstay car navigation systems.

From April to December 2013, the company posted a net loss of ¥6.699 billion, according to its earnings report released Wednesday.

Buoyed by a cheap yen spurred by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan, export-oriented industries are reviving, prompting labor unions in those industries to demand the very wage hikes sought by Abe.

The automotive industry, electronics makers and steel makers are considered the pacesetters in the shunto negotiations.

The major automakers’ labor unions submitted their wage requests Wednesday, kicking off the industry’s annual pay negotiations.

The unions demanded pay scale hikes and higher bonuses in light of the industry’s rapidly recovering earnings.

The automakers’ management teams are slated to announce their decisions on March 12.

A key union at leader Toyota Motor Corp. demanded an increase of ¥4,000 in the monthly pay scale and an annual bonus equivalent to 6.8 months’ salary, up from its request for five months plus ¥300,000 the previous year.

The request is the first by the Toyota union in five years. If granted, Toyota will see its base wage rise for the first time in six years.

Toyota expects to rewrite its record for group operating profit for the first time in six years when fiscal 2013 closes at the end of next month.

The union at Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. demanded a hike of ¥3,500 in the basic monthly wage, its first request in four years, and an annual bonus equivalent to six months’ pay, higher than its request for five months plus ¥100,000 the previous year.

The unions at Honda Motor Co., Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. all demanded a ¥3,500 hike in their basic monthly wages.

At Nissan Motor Co., however, the union sought a monthly pay hike of ¥9,500 on average for each union member and an annual bonus equivalent to 5.6 months’ salary, up from 5.5 months the previous year.

Unions at automakers and other major manufacturers had refrained from seeking pay scale hikes since the global financial crisis erupted in fall 2008.

At a news conference Wednesday, Yasunobu Aihara, president of the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions, called on automakers to accept their unions’ pay hike requests, saying management should reward employees who have made desperate efforts to help them improve and strengthen their business foundations.

But managers are wary of hiking pay scales because it would permanently increase costs.

In regard to the demands, Toyota President Akio Toyoda warned of several difficulties facing the auto industry.

Mazda President Masamichi Kogai has said his company will consider whether to raise base wages while taking into account its financial strength.