Japan’s largest union reaches early deal for higher pay By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Office workers wearing protective masks, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, work at a business building in Tokyo, Japan November 27, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Workers from Japan’s largest union have struck early agreements for hefty wage hikes with employers as cost of living pressures grow and businesses scramble to secure staff amid a labour crunch, unionists said on Thursday.

In an unprecedented move, 18 unions under the umbrella of UA Zensen, which represents workers in the service, textiles and distribution sectors, announced early results of closely-watched annual wage talks known as “shunto”.

The agreements come almost a week before the March 15 announcements of shunto results from Japan’s largest employers, which have historically set the precedent for wage growth for the coming fiscal year from April.

The 18 unions have agreed in full with their employers for average wage hikes of 5.28%, the unionists said at a news conference.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is piling pressure on companies to raise wages by 3% or more to beat rising living costs. The Bank of Japan is also desperate to see wage hikes strong enough to achieve sustainable demand-driven inflation.

To achieve wage hikes, Kishida’s government is set to hold a joint meeting with labour and management on March 15 when the major shunto results are expected.

Apart from those unions under UA Zensen, some other groups including automaker unions have also announced that labour’s demands for higher pay have been met ahead of a March 15 deadline.

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