• Kyodo

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The nation’s largest private-sector union said Wednesday it will demand wage hikes based on occupation rather than educational background or seniority during its annual spring labor talks in 2006 or later, union officials said.

The 724,000-member Japanese Electrical, Electronic and Information Union made the decision at its annual meeting.

The union wants to get away from the conventional system of setting wages basically across the board.

“We are in times when we cannot ignore the relation between Japan’s high labor cost and global competitiveness,” said Katsutoshi Suzuki, union chairman. “These days, the occupation-based wage system is being formed by the labor market. We need to look at the changes in our working environment.”

Under the proposed system, the union would classify jobs under about 10 categories, including clerical work, sales, systems engineering and assembly-line work, and set minimum acceptable salary levels and wage-hike targets for each category.

The union aims to stem a free fall in wages for all manufacturing workers by adopting the occupation-based wage system and to address the growing trend of industry management to allocate more resources to technology-development divisions to secure highly skilled workers, while lowering production division wages, which are said to be high by international standards, the union officials said.

The union had been demanding the same payment and wage hikes regardless of job based on the standard wage for a 35-year-old engineer who is a high school graduate. But during this year’s spring wage talks, it introduced another payment based on the standard wage for a 30-year-old white-collar clerical worker with a college degree.

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