Many NEC workers say they want to end 'discretionary' work system

At NEC Corp., a major Japanese electronics manufacturer, workers' rejection of the "discretionary" work system which was introduced barely six months ago is growing due to sharpening contradictions.

At the NEC Fuchu Office in the suburbs of Tokyo, many of several hundred workers of a division are now saying they want to be removed from the discretionary work system. These workers include more than half of the section chiefs in this division.

When NEC introduced this system in October 2002, it was applied to 8,000 of its employees.

Under the discretionary work system, workers are paid for the fixed hours they are supposed to work. Under the labor-management agreement, overtime pay is included in the pre-set amount of salaries and workers are not paid for extra overtime work.

Behind workers' rejection of the discretionary work system at the NEC Fuchu Office is the stark reality that there is no one whose overtime is under 20 hours a month as agreed upon by the union and management. Most workers work into the middle of night, but are only paid for no more than one hour of overtime a day.

Middle managers are afraid that they might be accused of violation of the Labor Standards Law. They are responsible for the management of hours workers worked, but the company takes steps to avoid keeping records so that there will be no data on overtime that might be used by the Labor Standards Bureau to accuse the company of violating the law.

The discretionary work system is applied to an average of 66 planning workers per company, while 1,000 such workers are under this system at NEC.

An NEC engineer said, "Many objections from managers are proof that the system used the term 'discretion' to conceal its real intention to escape from the responsibility for paying proper wages for overtime." (end)

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