Japan's largest labor union decided Thursday to demand a pay hike of at least 5 percent in annual wage negotiations next spring, strengthening its stance from this year to cope with persistent inflation.

In its basic policy for 2024 "shunto" negotiations, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, also known as Rengo, said it will seek a pay hike of "5 percent or more," including a base-pay rise of 3 percent or more. The group had called for a pay hike of "around 5 percent" for 2023.

In this spring's wage talks, workers won an average raise of 3.58 percent, exceeding 3 percent for the first time in 29 years, according to the union.

Tomoko Yoshino raises her fist while delivering a morale-boosting message during her speech at a regular meeting of Japanese Trade Union Confederation, Rengo, the country's largest labor organization, after being reelected as its president. (Kyodo)

Tomoko Yoshino, head of Rengo, told a press conference that the latest target is the "minimum line," encouraging trade unions at companies with relatively good performances to aim higher.

But she also noted that unions at smaller firms may have difficulty in demanding larger pay rises, as they may be struggling with what is currently a tough environment for businesses given rising raw material costs, among other factors.

In a separate press conference, Ken Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that Rengo's request is a high hurdle. "I feel it is difficult, at least for small and medium-sized companies."

Rengo also said it will seek a minimum hourly wage of 1,200 yen ($8) or higher, up 50 yen from the 2023 negotiations, as part of efforts to narrow the wage disparity between regular and nonregular workers.

Rising prices continue to deal a blow to consumers in Japan, where wage increases have not kept up with the soaring costs of goods and services.

Core consumer prices in Japan increased 3.1 percent in August from a year earlier, as surging food prices continued to add to overall inflationary pressures, government data has showed.

The core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food items, rose for the 24th straight month, while the country's real wages fell for the 17th straight month in August.

Wage negotiations will culminate in March when major companies decide on their responses to their labor unions' requests.

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