[EDITORIALS]A policy lurch toward laborThe labor policies that the Ministry of Labor unveiled yesterday suggest that the “balance of social powers” the new administration speaks of actually means a bias for labor. The policies ostensibly aim at rigorous neutrality between labor and management and the promotion of autonomous talks and negotiations. But many of the policies reflect only the interests of the labor sector.
The plan to revise laws related to talks led by industrial unions and the plan to adjust the standard for compulsory mediation are the most serious concerns. The Labor Ministry plans to recognize even unions that have not registered with the government, if they were members of higher-level industrial unions. Accordingly, collective agreements signed by industrial unions will be applied to their member locals without change. That means that dissimilar companies will have to grant identical wage raises only because they are in the same industry.
A more serious problem is that industrial general strikes will be legalized. That would permit unions to strike without proper negotiations with their managements, responding only to the order of the industrial federation they belong to. This will add to the burdens on companies and the national economy.
The ministry’s plan to limit the range of businesses necessary for public welfare, to which compulsory mediation rules apply, is also controversial. Such businesses include electric power, telecommunications and medical services, which are directly related to everyday public life. But there have already been many strikes led by hard-line unions in these businesses. The ministry also advocates investigating illegal strikers without physical restraint, if they have not committed violence or destruction. But this principle can be applied arbitrarily in detriment of law.
The labor minister said his ministry should back workers against other economic ministries. He said it must consider the views of labor ahead of seeking compromise with business. But will labor make any concession after the government has already stood by them? Tensions already are rising between labor’s soaring expectations and management’s concerns about the economy. The government should not deepen these tensions.