The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito are engaged in a tug of war over wage reductions for national public servants. The Diet has the responsibility to decide on wage levels and working conditions for national public servants.

The parties should start consultations so that they can tackle not only the wage issue but also other reforms related to national government workers.

The three parties agreed to implement the National Personnel Authority’s September 2011 call for an average 0.23 percent wage cut and then reduce the wage level to 7.8 percent below the current level in fiscal 2012 and 2013. The DPJ takes the stance that the 0.23 percent cut should be enforced from March 2012, while the LDP and Komeito want to implement a retroactive cut from April 2011.

The DPJ run government did not immediately carry out the 0.23 percent reduction on the grounds that a bill to cut wages by an average 7.8 percent in fiscal 2012 and 2013, which was submitted to the Diet during its regular session in 2011 and was carried over to the current regular session, includes the 0.23 percent cut.

The Kan administration at that time explained that a large wage cut was for creating reconstruction funds for the March 11, earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear crisis. But now the Noda administration is treating the large cut like a quid pro quo for the public’s acceptance of the planned consumption tax rate hike.

The government has also altered its position on another matter. At one point, Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada accepted the LDP and Komeito’s idea of calling on local governments to cut wages for their workers. But he later changed his position, having faced opposition from local governments.

The DPJ has agreed with public sector labor unions affiliated with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) to both carry out a large wage cut and give national public servants the right to conclude an agreement with their management on wages and other conditions.

The LDP strongly opposes the latter idea. But it should not forget the fact that the basic law for reform of the national public service system calls for establishing “autonomous labor-management relations” on the assumption that central government workers will be given the right to conclude a labor agreement.

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