Struggling Sony to cut pay even as PM Abe calls for higher wages

Fri Dec 5, 2014 4:52am EST
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By Ritsuko Ando

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp is likely to cut average pay next year in a rare move for a big Japanese company, and one that goes against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push for higher wages to get the economy moving.

For a second year, Abe is pressuring major companies to raise base pay in the fiscal year from April, and boost investment, to kick-start a positive cycle of higher wages, profits and prices to end 15 years of deflation.

Japan's main union of electronics workers is likely to demand a hike of over 2 percent in base pay, and companies are widely expected to comply. Most Sony workers, however, don't belong to the Japanese Electrical Electronic & Information Union, and the company's average pay of 8.85 million yen ($74,000) is among the industry's highest.

Sony is going through a painful restructuring after cutting its earnings forecasts six times in two years, and the once-storied electronics maker said earlier this year it will overhaul its salary structure for the first time in a decade, without elaborating on expected changes in pay.

"We are at this time studying various issues as Sony overall is in a difficult situation," spokeswoman Yo Kikuchi told Reuters. "The current human resources system was put in place around 10 years ago, so it was also time for a review."

Pay cuts are unusual in Japan, especially at big companies with their tradition of jobs-for-life and seniority-based compensation. Employers typically adjust to hard times by trimming bonus and overtime pay and hiring fewer new graduates.

While Japan's economy is fitfully recovering under 'Abenomics', with profits at record highs, Sony remains in a defensive mindset. In September, the company widened its annual net loss forecast to 230 billion yen from 50 billion yen and scrapped its dividend for the first time since going public.


The logo of Sony Corp and a Christmas tree are reflected on the company's 4K television set at the company's headquarters in Tokyo November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai