From WEEKLY MDS No.878, Mar. 11, 2005 issue logo

True Objective of Attacks on Osaka City Public Workers - General Impoverishment through Wage Cuts

Attacks on employees and abandon of the weak

The issue of "hospitable treatment of employees" triggered by the media campaign on "fabricated overtime services of Osaka city employees" is now being expanded into attacks targeted at cutting down wages and fringe benefits for the entire population of local public employees.

The issue of non-existent overtime work claims, a symbol of the collusion of the Osaka municipal authority and executive unionists, must be corrected through identification of the responsible parties involved. The real issue is, however, that both the authority and the media are hiding the underlying problem. The city's financial crisis with a total sum of outstanding debts reaching 2.9 trillion yen as of the FY 2005 end is a result of generations of the city administration's pouring municipal tax revenues into large-scale public works and third-sector projects (like the Osaka Dome and high-rise buildings) to satisfy demands of the Kansai business community. To aggravate the situation, those third-sector projects have been complete failures, continuously creating red figures.

The objective of the campaign is to redirect public criticism on the corrupt and general contractor-oriented municipal administration into "attacks on hospitable treatment of employees." While drastically lowering labor costs and cutting social aid and welfare budgets, the authority intends to throw tremendous amounts of additional funds into deficit coverage for the third-sector projects and large-scale public works including new artificial island construction/redevelopment projects. To truncate benefits of public workers, citizens and the weak in particular in order to continue to secure sources of profits for big companies - that is the essential nature of the matter we are looking at.

Political and business communities enhancing attacks on public workers

The attacks are not limited to Osaka municipal workers. Wages and benefits of the entire population of Japan's public workers are exposed to a one-stretch pay cut attempt.

The Ministry of Finance publicized a survey result that says local public employees' average wages are 14% higher than those of private company employees (Dec. 6 issue of The Yomiuri Shimbun), appealing the need for a radical review of salaries. Next, the government fixed a policy of 5% pay cut across the board for national public workers' basic salaries (Feb. 23 issue of The Nihon Keizai Shimbun). The business world also made a proposal for "local public worker reform" and the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations chairman is demanding a review of public worker wage standards (Jan. 25 issue of The Nihon Keizai Shimbun).

The hustle for public worker pay cut by the government and the business world is driven by the following motives. First, they want to promote "trinity reform." The Koizumi cabinet is promoting so-called administrative reform to specialize the roles of the central government in securing interests of global capitalists and in military affairs while transferring the entire responsibility for public services to local entities. In order to secure budgets for expansion of armaments, the government intends to cut down on local allocation taxes and to reduce grants-in-aid even more than the amount created by the planned tax source transfers to local entities. In order to minimize the amount of local allocation taxes, they are pursuing pay cuts because labor costs are the basis of calculation of local allocation taxes.

Second, they want to lower the wage/income standard of Japan's entire workforce even more severely. A pet phrase "the age of annual income of 3 million yen" is being circulated, and it is not an exceptional case that a regular worker of a private company only gets a wage lower than the standard eligible for social relief. In order to lower the wage level even more, they are attacking wages of public workers.

Urgent task - Counterattack on the arms expansion policy

The Osaka municipal government unilaterally determined to cut down on wages and benefit payments, and Japanese Trade Union Confederation's General Secretary KUSANO Tadayoshi urged the labor union to accept the move, saying, "the issue (of hospitable treatment of employees) would have adverse effect on the general labor movement." No questioning has been made concerning the responsibility of the city authority, the primary cause of the financial collapse or the issue of welfare truncation. That is an attempt to demand public workers alone to obey and accept unilateral moves toward pay cuts and worsened working conditions in the face of the Local Public Service Law.

It is our task to expose the objective of the Osaka city authority's moves toward full mobilization of the city's organizational and financial resources for big companies, and to establish solidarity with workers and citizens struggling against war, unemployment and welfare truncation. Stand against the attempt to lower the standards of wages and working conditions as well as against outsourcing of public services to private businesses and replacement of regular workers with non-regular ones. Confront the Koizumi administration's trinity reform, warfare nation development and general impoverishment policy in unity with the local communities. (March 1)

Copyright Weekly MDS