At this time of year, many companies hold negotiations about winter bonuses with labor unions. The union files a request with the company, and then the company makes a response. That is how it usually works. And that was true of us, too. “That WAS? What about now?”
We suggested two years ago that the management first make a proposal and then the union discuss it. And so there is no request from the union now. That’s right – the management suggests a bonus amount to the labor union voluntarily.
We had to get it done by the first half of this week. That’s because it has become a tradition to pay the winter bonus on the first Friday of December. Actually, I intended to have a joint management council last Friday to submit a proposal. But I had trouble drawing up such a proposal.
Though we are doing very well this term, that trend probably won’t continue through next term. Under these circumstances, what amount should I propose and how should I explain that decision? I just couldn’t come to a conclusion. So I asked the union leader last week, “I haven’t made up my mind about what to do. I need something to give me a push. In advance of the next term that’s expected to be hard for us, I want you to convey how I feel to the union members and let me know their thoughts.”
And today we had an opportunity to hear the answer. When I entered the meeting room, I found everyone was standing and chairman A was not there.
“Where’s Mr. A?”
“He was so nervous that he’s gone to bathroom.”
Mr. A came back and the meeting began. At the beginning, Mr. A suddenly brought out those colored message cards that you can see in the picture.
“I decided to get every union member to write his/her thought on these cards after last Friday’s meeting.”
I heard they had meetings during lunch time on Monday and Tuesday in each division, where one of the union officials attended and asked the members to write down their thoughts towards the anticipated difficult term on the cards.
“At first, I worried how many members would participate. But their words filled the cards quickly. I can’t see why it always takes so long for circulars to go around,” said Mr. A.
"If they hadn’t been thinking seriously about it daily, they wouldn’t have been able to write that quickly, especially the freshmen. I’m so embarrassed when I think how thoughtless I was when I was their age.”
“It’s true that there were some who didn’t join us, but as for those who were in this project, I believe their words came from the bottom of their hearts.”
“All we can do is look ahead and work hard, once we have expressed our convictions.”
It was really touching, but I believe that very process of struggling and thinking something through is extremely valuable.
· The union filed a standard proposal suggested by the governing body.
· Instead of the standard union proposal, ISOWA’s union made its own proposal.
· The management side makes a proposal instead of its union.
· Before the company makes a proposal, the union expresses their intensions for the term to come.
Our negotiations with the union have been evolving over time, as mentioned above. Yet the meeting this time has taken it to the next stage, I think. Certainly those message cards from the union members gave me a powerful push.
After the meeting was over, Mr. N said, “I’m starting to feel that we are now at a new stage with the union officials. It felt like we were doing a cooperative project with them.”
Bonus negotiations will be a great place for us to share our goals, not just settle on the amount of bonuses. A new process has been designed.