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Government shelves basic labor rights for government employees

A Cabinet task force on February 3 adopted a four-year plan (so-called "road map") that will keep "amakudari", a practice of retired bureaucrats gaining executive positions in the private sector as well as at government-affiliated corporations. The plan will also pave the way for creating a bureaucracy faithful to the direction set by the ruling parties and the business sector while shelving restoring the basic labor rights for government employees.

Under the "road map", government agencies will be prohibited from arranging for retired bureaucrats to take up jobs at government-controlled agencies and in the private sector because such arrangements have been under public criticism. However, "amakudari" will not be eliminated because the Cabinet Office will establish an office that will provide a program of "manpower exchange" between the public sector and the private sector.

The "road map" also states that the functions of the National Personnel Authority (NPA) will be transferred to the government. This means that the government as the employer of government employees will be able to retain and train personnel who are favorable to the government through exercising its power to arbitrarily cut salaries, make appointments, and take punitive actions.

Currently, the NPA as an independent body which manages government personnel affairs. This system has been regarded as a measure to compensate for public service employees being prohibited from exercising basic labor rights, including the right to strike.

In order to create an environment in which government workers can carry out their duties in democratic and efficient manners as "servants of the nation", it is essential to ease restrictions regarding basic labor rights for public service employees and to restore social and political freedom to them. However, the government does not refer to the issue of the restoration of these rights to them.

National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) Secretary General Odagawa Yoshikazu on February 3 in his statement pointed out that the government plan to transfer the authority over personnel affairs from the NPA to the government without restoring public employees basic labor rights will come under severe criticism as "unconstitutional."

Odagawa also emphasized that the call for the creation of a "national strategy staff" system in the Cabinet Office and a system to exchange human resources between the public and private sectors will compromise the fairness and neutrality of public service employees.

The Conference for Public Service Workers' Unions, which consists of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo)-affiliated unions, published a statement on February 3 to point out that "the 'road map' violates the neutrality and fairness of government employees administration. To strengthen employers' authority while restricting basic labor rights is a matter that must be scrutinized under the Constitution." Rengo also said that if the government submits the bill on this reform, it will call for movement to get the bill scrapped.

- Akahata, February 4, 2009

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