End unpaid overtime work, get the work of humanity back -- Akahata editorial, October 22

Large corporations such as Chiyoda Corporation, Chubu Electric Power Company, and Takefuji Corporation have been ordered to pay workers back wages for overtime. This is a result of workers' struggles and the Japanese Communist Party's efforts in parliament to get the government to eliminate corporate crimes.

Unpaid overtime work is still prevalent in Japan. A major issue in the coming House of Representatives general election will be whether to allow large corporations to continue to carry out this lawless practice.

Workplaces are hazardous to health of workers

Many wives are worried that overwork may kill their husbands. Taking this state of workers seriously, the JCP has taken the lead in parliamentary debate on this issue by confronting the government more than 200 times.

As a result of written instructions issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to end unpaid overtime work, over 15 billion yen have been paid in back wages to workers for the past two and a half years. The amount, however, is still only tapping the tip of the iceberg.

The prevalent practices of forcing workers into overtime work without pay show that the Japanese workplace is dangerous for workers in the absence of rules in addition to the destruction of existing rules.

One of the pillars that harms the work environment is the legalization of unpaid overtime work. No matter how long employees work, they will not be paid more than fixed amounts. This happens under the so-called "discretionary work system." This system is peculiar to Japan, and its application has been broadened to include white-collar workers. With this, large corporations increase profits because they can force workers to work without pay without limits.

The JCP in opposition to this system argues that the need now is to end forced overtime work and long working hours. The Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan must be held responsible for having supported the introduction and the expansion of this system.

Another major attack on the work environment is the unregulated use of throwaway workers, including low-paid temporary workers and fixed-term contract workers.

In 1999, the law was revised to allow companies to use temporary workers without restrictions. Later, further deregulation lifted the ban of the use of temporary workers in the manufacturing sector. The maximum length permitted for fixed term employment has been extended to the advantage of corporations.

As part of the effort to protect contingent workers' jobs and rights, the Japanese Communist Party has insisted on the need to create more stable jobs instead of low-paying unstable jobs, and has called for part-time workers and workers on fixed term contracts to be treated on an equal basis with full-time employees.

The destruction of work rules has been pushed by business circles. Business circles have asked for restrictions to be lifted concerning labor because they want to ensure that corporations can increase profits through reducing the full-time workforce in the name of corporate restructuring and replacing them with cheap labor and intend to gain further earnings from the growing manpower-leasing business.

In the last five years, the number of full time jobs has decreased by 3.5 million. In contrast, the number of contingent jobs has increased by 3.23 million. The increase of low-paying jobs makes it more difficult for young people to support themselves, causing social unrest and low birth rates. Clearly, increasing low-paying jobs will further decrease personal consumption and will obstruct economic development.

It is extremely irresponsible for the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties to call for more deregulation to create a competitive society gripped by the law of the jungle dominated by market forces.

The Democratic Party of Japan in its jobs policy package calls for reform in the regulations concerning temporary staffing, fixed term employment on contracts, and the discretionary work system. The DPJ supported the 1999 adverse revision of the Manpower Dispatching Business Law and deregulation of employment on term contracts.

Jobs and the rights of working people cannot be defended by the LDP and the DPJ who rely on corporate donations.

Establish work rules

A rough estimate shows that by just eliminating overtime work without pay, 1.6 million jobs can be created. It is essential for a sustainable economy to be equipped with work rules worthy of human dignity and with stable jobs as the JCP calls for. (end)

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