'Discretionary work system' increases unpaid-overtime work

Japanese Communist Party Inoue Satoshi in the Diet debate of March 17 revealed that company managements are using the so-called "discretionary labor system" as a tool to impose on workers excessive workloads.

Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Sakaguchi Chikara and the director general of the Labor Standards Bureau promised to warn the companies to correct the situation.

Under the "discretionary labor system", wages are paid for a time duration fixed between labor and management, irrespective of actual working hours. In Japan, those who are eligible for this system are only in "professional sections" such as engineers and "corporate planning sections" such as business executives. However, the government and the business circles are now seeking to impose the system onto white-collar employees.

Inoue in the House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting brought up the problem that NEC, a major electronics maker, regards its white-collar staff as workers in the "corporate planning section".

Inoue pointed out that NEC applies the "discretionary labor system" to 7,000 employees, including 1,000 clerical workers. The electronics giant makes the eligible workers inform the company of their showing-up time one day before if the workers want to come later than the fixed-starting time, and imposes tough warnings on them if they could not come on time.

Asked "Do you still think workers work at their own discretion?" by JCP Inoue, the labor standards bureau chief admitted that the way NEC operates its system "is abusing the discretionary labor system."

Citing the example that at NEC there is neither a timecard nor an attendance book, Inoue pointed out that 30 percent of enterprises where the "discretionary labor system" is introduced fail to record their workers' actual working hours.

Inoue stated that such situations are against the relevant guideline that imposes on corporations the duty to administrate workers' working hours to defend their health, and that the "discretionary labor system" only helps impose on workers longer working hours with heavier workloads. (end)

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