A Globalising Japanese Retail Market

UNI Newsdesk, 23 June 2003

In his fraternal address to the JSD Convention in Tokyo, UNI General Secretary Philip J. Jennings drew attention to the globalising retail market in Japan. Commerce is now a global business. A handful of companies dominate the global retail and wholesale markets.

In Japan the market was once closed to the presence of multinationals but that is no longer the case as the global players such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, IKEA, Metro and Tesco have now entered Japan.

Jennings encouraged the JSD and Japanese commercial workers unions to ensure that all companies have union representation.

Jennings drew attention to the world's largest commercial operator, Wal-Mart. He explained the anger that so many unions felt at Wal-Mart because in its home market in the USA, it systematically does all it can to crush, dismiss and intimidate anyone that seeks to join a union. He observed that: Wal-Mart is a corporate bully. We demand they change their ways at home and stop exporting their anti-union terror tactics.

Jennings recalled the words of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart who was fond of saying: Never get so set in your ways, you cannot change. We ask the current Wal-Mart leaders to take this advice and change their ways.

Jennings congratulated the JSD on their help to build unions in the Asia and Pacific.

The Asian economic miracle of the 70's and 80's brought with it the growth of large and international shopping centres throughout the region.

UNI-Apro Commerce is now tackling this and welcomes the union initiatives in Japan to organise all commerce employees. Until recently those on part-time and short term contracts were ignored by the unions.

In Japan today whilst 30% of all the 21 million white-collar workers are atypical only 2.7% of them are organised into unions.

The JSD Convention took place against a sombre economic background. The land which once was admired for lifelong employment now has a 5.3% unemployment rate; the economy shrunk by 0.7% in 2002 and bankruptcies are rocketing.

A structural change is taking place in the workforce toward more casual practices. The government is currently battling to introduce a new labour law to make it easier to dismiss staff. Japanese companies are eager to take advantage of low wage countries. The number of staff working in Japanese companies abroad increased from 1.62 million to 3.14 million between 1991 and 2001. Of the 3.14 million, 1.9 million of them are to be found in Asia.

The overall union organising rate in Japan now stands at 20.2%. The work of JSD to recruit new members is crucial to the entire Japanese labour movement.