On Working with Unions in Japan

Do You Know What to Do if a Union Knocks?
If One is Troubling You the Solution is Surprisingly Quick and Simple.

  1. Unions usually get started in companies where management is weak and afraid of unions! They do not take root in tough, demanding environments where employees are afraid of the consequences of organizing a union.
  2. A union of just one or two staff can be a thorn in management’s side if we do not know how to handle the situation. Often just one or a handful of weaker, non-contributing people seek the union’s help to protect them. If we allow this, and other staff see this, the union takes hold. All your people are watching. If the union brings results, and union demands are met, you’re unionized.
  3. It is more than an issue of meeting union demands or not meeting them. Bargaining in good faith and with sincerity can also mean that management makes its own counter demands. At most firms working conditions and benefits are already above the level of the Labor Standards Law. Management’s question to employees before the first union negotiation can be, “Are you sure you want to negotiate, because we have realized that x&y&z can be brought down, and we are determined to make these gains.” (It ends up we don’t have to make everyone suffer, but they got the message and the union disappears.)
  4. It is true that collective bargaining agreements take legal precedence over Rules of Employment (ROE). The union does not have to agree to management’s demands either, but when impasse is reached, changes can be implemented by management as ROE changes. There is no Unfair Labor Practice committed here.
  5. It’s a communication campaign. We have to make it clear that the expat boss, or Japanese President are also salaried men in the same boat. The paid upper body union professionals are the outsiders who need employees’ dues money. They do not lose their livelihood if your company closes. We need to put the union in the proper perspective in the eyes of your staff. Unions have never paid salaries, retirement benefits, or extra severance. They cannot keep companies from closing. Your employees would not entrust the union leader to run the company. Be sure and pose this question to all your staff. They will give their own very clear answer.
  6. Frankly communicate and cover these subjects. Watch the union movement dry up and blow away. The typical, established collective bargaining agreement states that management must fire any employee who wants to leave the union! Where’s the democracy there?
  7. At some point you may have consented to a dues check-off where the employer automatically deducts the dues at payroll source and forwards this dues money to the union. You cannot expect an individual employee to stand up and complain about that. However, as soon as it becomes clear that the union performs no role and brings no gains to employees, employees will be waiting for management to pull the plug on the dues check-off. The employees themselves will pull the plug on the union.
  8. In the meantime any “negotiations” should be limited in advance to one hour and from 6:00p.m. — prime time and cannot-often-meet-time for busy outside, paid professional union organizers and business agents. Even with a less aggressive stance you should never need to meet more than 2 or 3 times each for the base-up and summer and winter bonus negotiations. “Best offer first” negotiation tactics tend to streamline the process! As a fellow salary man who cares about your people, why wouldn’t you start with the best offer possible?
  9. Indeed, keeping the union out, and getting the majority of employees to put pressure on union radicals, disband the union, and help you drive the radicals out of the company is surprisingly quick and simple. Most of your people have been waiting with bated breath for you to do this. You as the leader are the only one who can get this started.
  10. TMT assists you in identifying Rules of Employment, salary, benefit, and personnel practice-based negotiation positions, tactics and strategy, and in communicating these messages to all your staff — often mixed in with a different themed management training. (See our training guidebook “Sixteen Steps (seminars) to Corporate, Leadership and Excellence.”)
  11. This combined with TMT taking the lead and providing on-the-job training for several managers at two or three union “negotiation” sessions results in your no longer having a union. TMT does not usually charge by the hour so we make it fast and keep it simple.