On the same day the automaker announced voluntary buyouts and another series of cuts at its North American facilities, Toyota‘s labour union in Japan formally asked for an average increase of JPY4,000 (US$44; EUR35) in basic monthly pay for regular employees to reflect rising prices.

The request, to be filed with the company’s management next Wednesday, will mark the fourth straight year that the union has demanded a pay increase. It asked for JPY1,500 yen last year, Kyodo News reported.

The union also decided at its meeting to seek an average annual bonus of around JPY1.9m ($21,000; EUR16,380) per worker, down more than JPY500,000 from the previous business year, due to worsening business conditions. The figure is equivalent to five months’ wages plus JPY200,000.

Toyota only a week ago lowered its forecast for the 2008 business year to 31 March to a group net loss of JPY350bn, the first red ink since it began releasing net earnings data in 1963.

”The situation is tough but we would like to create an environment to energise our union members and to revitalise the Japanese economy,” Mitsuyuki Tsuruoka, head of the labour union, told Kyodo News.

The union also plans to ask management to, among other things, keep temporary workers on the payroll.

”There are many temporary workers who are worried (about their future),” Tsuruoka said, adding that the union would do what it can to ease their concerns.