Japanese steel unions kick off ‘shunto’ wage talks


Labor unions representing the nation’s major steel makers submitted their pay hike requests on Friday, kicking off this year’s shunto spring wage negotiations and setting the tone for talks in other sectors.

The Federation of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Workers’ Unions requested a monthly pay hike of ¥4,000 for fiscal 2016 and 2017.

“It’s important to stimulate consumer spending in order to ensure an end to deflation,” union chief Tadayuki Omori emphasized when he handed the request to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.’s management.

In the biennial negotiations for 2014, the union demanded a ¥3,500 hike each for fiscal 2014 and 2015 but eventually agreed to a hike of just ¥1,000.

The unions of JFE Holdings Inc. and Kobe Steel Ltd. submitted their wage requests the same day.

The major steel makers are scheduled to present their wage proposals on March 16.

The industry is suffering from a sluggish market mired in Chinese steel exports from rivals with excessive production capacity.

At Nippon Steel, bonuses for fiscal 2016 starting in April are expected to drop from 2015 because they are linked to corporate earnings.

The focus is instead expected to be on whether monthly salaries will be raised at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling on businesses to issue wage hikes to help overcome deflation.

The management of Nippon Steel is cautious about pay hikes, however.

“Considering the harsh business environment, we will have to take a severe stance toward measures that will increase our burdens,” an executive said.