• Kyodo

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An umbrella group of major steel worker unions proposed Friday making lump-sum pay-hike demands covering two years from spring 2004 and letting management decide in which year to increase the pay.

The 144,000-member Japan Federation of Steel Workers Unions proposed introducing the new strategy at its regular convention in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Since spring 1998, the federation has staged spring wage negotiations, called “shunto,” every two years, shifting from the conventional way of conducting such negotiations annually, but has demanded pay hikes for each year.

Under the new method, the federation will effectively give up annual requests for pay increases.

In the proposal, the federation said conventional pay-hike demands are presently unacceptable because of the steel industry’s dire circumstances. It cited steelmakers shifting production overseas and cost-cutting competition, with Chinese and South Korean rivals gaining power.

The federation said it will focus on maintaining wage levels as its minimum request in future negotiations, rather than dwelling on annual pay hikes.

The federation demanded pay hikes of 3,000 yen in both 2000 and 2001, but dropped demands for pay increases in 2002 and 2003 in return for prioritizing job security.

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