TOKYO (Reuters) - The Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) group’s labor federation will push for a unified rise in base wages, Japanese media said on Thursday, a major step towards permanent wage increases that will be key to ending Japan’s decade and a half of deflation.
The 329,000-strong Federation of All Toyota Workers’ Unions plans for the first time in five years to ask its member unions to seek higher base salaries in wage negotiations next spring, public broadcaster NHK said.
Such a move would make it the first of Japan’s big labor federations to seek base pay increases, potentially setting the pace for wage demands at other big firms.
The federation, whose 312 unions represent workers at the world’s largest automaker as well as its sales outlets and major suppliers in Japan, declined to confirm the report.
A federation official said the group had yet to reach a consensus on the matter.
Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took power a year ago, his “Abenomics” mix of fiscal, monetary and economic policies to lift Japan out of deflation has spurred a nearly one-quarter drop in the yen, sharply boosting the earnings of Japan’s exporters.
Sustained growth in the economy, however, will require an increase in wages that Abe hopes will create a virtuous cycle of higher incomes and consumption.
While many companies have boosted one-off bonus payments, they have so far been wary of raising base wages that would add to their fixed costs. Data released on Wednesday, moreover, showed that total cash earnings by wage earners in Japan rose only 0.1 percent in September from a year earlier.
Toyota, which employs around 69,000 people in Japan, last raised base pay in 2008, according to the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in October that he would consider passing along a portion of the company’s higher profits to workers in the form of increased pay, but added that he would wait for the union to make a move when asked about a potential base salary hike.
Toyota expects its operating profit to jump 70 percent in the year to April to 2.2 trillion yen ($21.4 billion), near a record set before the Lehman Brothers crisis, helped by the weaker yen.
The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, Japan’s largest labor organization, on Tuesday called for a 1 percent or more rise in base pay for its member federations and unions.
($1 = 102.6550 Japanese yen)
Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Matt Driskill