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Shuntō (春闘) is a Japanese term, usually translated as "spring [wages] offensive", with the word "wages" sometimes replaced with livelihood, labour or similar term. It refers to the annual wage negotiations between the enterprise unions and the employers. Many thousands of these unions conduct the negotiations simultaneously from the beginning of March.
Shuntō began in the 1940s and by the mid-1950s was a set feature in industrial relations. Boosted by the militancy of the workers who brought the cities of Japan to a halt every spring, it was key to boosting the comparatively low wages of the 1940s and to improving conditions and other benefits. The Trade Union Confederation, RENGO, customarily set a specific target, "base-up", for the annual wage increases to aid the collective bargaining. Negotiations for the enterprise unions tended to begin after the bigger unions had secured their own deals, so they could push for their own company to match the improvements, leading to across the economy wage increases.
Since Japan has been in recession and deflation, with union membership falling, the value of the shuntō and the automatic wage increases associated with it have come under threat. The major unions in steel, electronics and the automotive industry have been forced to restrict their demands and even accept zero offers from the employers. The concern has become to protect existing pay structures and jobs. With greater pressure on the workforce the rise in karōshi and karō jisatsu are worrying trends. During recent years, there has been criticism among the younger generation that shuntō has become a performance. A shrinking labor union is a serious problem in industries like manufacturing, where the number of non-regular employees, who are ineligible to participate in labor unions, has increased in contrast to diminishing regular employees.