Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
At Tokyo’s Haneda Airport today, I watched a bio-fuelled JAL aircraft find loft in a sign of 21st Century change.
But for executives of Japan’s flag carrier, Asia’s largest, the exercise was also a brief diversion from the terrestrial woes of the world financial crisis.
A national airline once deemed among Japan’s best employers is now also trying to shed capacity.
With global car sales sinking severely and rapidly in the past few months, automakers from Nissan to Volvo and Peugeot are reducing full-time staff in an urgent effort to slash costs. Contract workers — the first to go when business turns bleak — are gone or on their way out at most car manufacturers around the globe.
But when Toyota Motor so much as blinks at the question of whether they would let permanent staff go, the reaction is exaggerated. And it’s not just because Toyota is the world’s biggest automaker and was, until last year, the most profitable and envied in the business. Toyota is, quite simply, obsessed with job security.
In my many conversations with Toyota officials and executives over the years, 1950 has come up time and again as a major turning point in the company’s history. That year, a plunge in car sales and the risk of bankruptcy forced Toyota to sack thousands of workers after management and union workers — on strike
against the proposed steps — failed to reach a compromise.