TOKYO - Japan's automakers are resisting traditional, annual across-the-board wage hikes. So unions here have a new strategy for winning more pay: hefty one-time bonuses.
At first glance, management's tough negotiating stance seems miserly. Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. are on track to post record profits this fiscal year from strong exports.
Still, unions know that management at each of those companies is not inclined to be magnanimous to its Japanese workers. Japan is caught in a deflationary vise, blamed by many on rising low-cost imports from China. With consumer prices falling, management can argue that higher pay is unnecessary.
Moreover, labor leaders are concerned about long-term job security. Japan's carmakers have been building their new factories in the United States, Europe and elsewhere - not in Japan. Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Mazda Motor Corp., Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Nissan Diesel Motor Co. Ltd. all have cut their work forces.
Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda set the stage for this year's annual spring wage talks, known locally as the shunto. Okuda thundered that corporate Japan no longer can afford the across-the-board hike in base pay that used to come every year.