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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 May 23 - 29  > Ruling block bulldozes through ‘work-style reform’ package bill
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2018 May 23 - 29 [POLITICS]

Ruling block bulldozes through ‘work-style reform’ package bill

May 26, 2018

In defiance of strong opposition from family members who lost their loved ones due to overwork, the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei parties on May 25 at a House of Representatives labor committee meeting used their majority force to bulldoze through the work-style reform package bill. The Japanese Communist and Constitutional Democratic parties as well as the Democratic Party of the People formally objected to the ruling bloc’s outrageous act.

The package mainly focuses on the introduction of a “highly professional” work system, the setting of a legal upper limit on overtime, and the elimination of the gap between regular and non-regular workers based on the principle of equal pay for equal work. However, Diet deliberations made it clear that the government-proposed work-style reform will drive more and more workers to death from overwork (karoshi) and will do nothing to eradicate unequal treatment of contingent workers.

Prime Minister Abe in Diet discussions insisted that the proposed-new work system will enable workers doing jobs requiring highly specialized skills and knowledge to work autonomously. Under the system, however, workers will not be allowed to use their discretion, but will be exempt from working hour regulations.

Furthermore, questioning by opposition party lawmakers revealed the dangerous nature of the highly professional work structure. Under this work system, institutionally, it is allowable for employers to order workers to work for 48 consecutive days without rest or sleep after providing legally mandated time offs.

PM Abe in the Diet explained that the highly professional system will award workers based on their performance. The government proposed-bill, however, included no provision guaranteeing performance-based salary for workers.

The work-style reform-related bill seeks to set an upper limit on overtime at 100 hours a month or an average of 80 hours over a period of two to six months, the number of work hours are currently used as the yardstick for official recognition of karoshi. The introduction of an up-to 100-hour-a-month cap will bring about a situation in which employers are not accused of driving workers into overwork-induced death. In addition, in Diet deliberations, Labor Minister Kato Katsunobu admitted to a loophole in the bill. Using the loophole, employers can force workers to work for more than 150 hours of overtime a month.

Although the Abe government has reiterated that work-style reform measures will establish the “equal pay for equal work” principle and that gaps between regular and non-regular workers will be reduced, there is no mention of that principle in the package bill. The bill, if enacted, will provide the same working conditions as regular workers to only 1.5% of non-regular workers.

Past related articles:
> Karoshi victims’ families angry at Abe gov’t for intending to steamroller through bills to weaken work hour rules [May 17, 2018]
> JCP will work to foil PM Abe’s pro-business ‘work-style reform’ scheme [April 8, 2018]
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