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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 October 12 - 18  > Labor Ministry okays limit-exceeding extra work if it’s for restart of N-reactors
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2016 October 12 - 18 [LABOR]

Labor Ministry okays limit-exceeding extra work if it’s for restart of N-reactors

October 13, 2016
It has come to light that the Labor Ministry issued a directive that an electricity company can have its workers work exceeding the upper limits of overtime if extra work is related to examinations for reactivation of offline nuclear reactors.

Labor Minister Shiozaki Yasuhisa admitted this at a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on October 12 during questioning by Japanese Communist Party representative Takahashi Chizuko.

Under the government-set standards, overtime must be less than 45 hours per month, 120 hours per three months, or 360 hours per year. However, in 2013, from the application of the upper limit standards, the director-general of the Ministry’s Labor Standards Bureau excluded the work time limit pertaining to the examinations for the restart of currently-suspended reactors on the grounds that such an assignment is “the necessity of the public interests”.

JCP Takahashi asked, “Do you know about this directive the director-general of the Bureau issued to this effect?

Labor Minister Shiozaki answered, “My secretaries told me just in this morning.” Following Shiozaki, both the minister in charge of nuclear power plants and the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said they have never been consulted by the Labor Ministry regarding this issue.

Takahashi: This is very serious that the bureau issued this directive all by itself without consulting the labor minister. Who in the world asked the bureau to do so?

Shiozaki: At the request of an electricity company, the Bureau’s director-general at that time issued the directive.

Takahashi: Which company was it?

Shiozaki: It was Kyushu Electric Power Company (Kyuden).

Takahashi: Safety checks before putting inactive reactors back online need at least three years. It’s a long time. What if you lift the overtime ceiling? You have allowed the utility to force its workers to work extra hours exceeding the danger line for death from overwork (80h/m) for the sake of resumption of NPP operations. Do you really believe that this is in the public interest? Your permission given to Kyuden will undoubtedly open the door for other utilities to follow Kyuden.

Her statements greatly shocked the lawmakers present in the committee room.

“To impose too much strain on workers will result in a deterioration of safe working conditions without doubt,” she pointed out and added, “Only if workers are well-treated can companies enjoy constant improvements in productivity and enhance the corporate image as well.”

She concluded her questioning by demanding that the government set a legally-binding upper limit for overtime work.
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