Toyota Union Seeking Higher Wages, Bonus in Negotiations

Japan’s Prime Minister, Unions Seeking Improved Wage Growth in 2024
Toyota assembly line
Workers assemble vehicles on the Prius hybrid and Priyus plug-in hybrid vehicle production line of the Toyota Tsutsumi plant in Toyota City, Aichi, Japan. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg News)

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Toyota Motor Corp.’s workers’ union is seeking a bonus of 7.6 months worth of salary, an increase of almost a full month’s worth of wages, as it prepares for annual compensation negotiations with the Japanese carmaker.

The bargaining group, which has not yet put forth demands for average salary increases, said on Jan. 29 it will make a final decision on what it expects based on job categories and rankings at a council meeting on Feb. 9, before informing the company.

Manufacturers are likely to face tough demands from unions during annual spring wage talks, with prices picking up over the past two years. The big question for the Japanese economy is whether there will be enough signs of sustained inflation, and corresponding wage increases, for the Bank of Japan to end its policy of negative interest rates.

“The union members’ efforts and hard work to improve productivity over the past year are evident in the numbers, and reflected in Toyota’s financial results,” said Keisuke Kito, chairman of the union’s executive committee. The demands also reflect rises in consumer prices, he added.

The amount sought by the union will rise significantly from last year, which was the highest per capita wage increase since 1990.

The automotive industry, including parts suppliers, dealers and maintenance companies, employs about 5.5 million people in Japan. As a result, any wage increases by Toyota and other carmakers will be seen as a bellwether for the rest of the manufacturing sector and economy.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and top union leaders are calling for more robust wage growth ahead of the annual pay negotiations. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, the collective bargaining group known more colloquially as Rengo, has set a target of a 5% increase in wages, and at least 3% in terms of base pay.

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