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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 June 27 - July 3  > Let's stop 'zero-overtime-payment' system from coming into force!
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2018 June 27 - July 3 TOP3 [POLITICS]
editorial 

Let's stop 'zero-overtime-payment' system from coming into force!

June 30, 2018

Akahata editorial

The package of "work-style reform" bills, including a "high-level professionals" system or the so-called the "zero-overtime-payment" system which has been under fire for endangering the lives of workers, became law on June 29 at the Upper House plenary session by the majority vote of the Liberal Democratic, Komei, and "Ishi no Kai" parties. Bereaved families of workers who died from overwork (karoshi), the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), and all the other labor organizations have been raising opposition to the package of bills. However, the Abe government ignored them and forcibly and irresponsibly enacted the bills. To opposition parties' questioning in the Diet, the bills' proposers did not offer full responses. The reasoning behind the need for this legislation has totally collapsed. It is necessary to stop the law, which goes against the demands of the general public and is logically invalid, from being put into practice. The law should be rescinded.

The reasoning behind the law is nonsensical

The work-style reform legislation makes it possible for employers to evade all regulations on working hours and to have workers work technically for "24 hours" a day by taking advantage of the zero-overtime-payment system. This adverse reform of work style has come into postwar Japan's labor legislation for the first time in history. It will not be too much to say this is a terrible law.

The "ceiling on overtime hours" is the centerpiece of the work-style reform legislation. However, with this set cap, employers can legally have workers work up to the government-set danger line for karoshi (100 hours of overtime a month), which will most likely further promote long working hours. Regarding "equal pay for equal work", the new legislation tolerates and even solidifies the existing wage disparities. The work-style reform legislation, in meeting the strong demands of business circles, actually threatens workers' lives and health. It is impermissible for the LDP, Komei, and Ishin no Kai parties to have used their majority force to steamroller through this package of bills.
During Diet deliberations on the bills, the government explained that the bills will "meet workers' needs", workers' performance will "be evaluated by their results, not by the length of hours they work", and workers "can autonomously work". However, Diet debate on the bills revealed that all these arguments have no leg to stand on. In the first place, this legislation since its draft was submitted has been based on a massive amount of wrong data on working hours. The government was found to have falsified and concealed the work-hour survey data. Therefore, the submission of the package of bills itself has been called into question.

Prime Minister Abe early this year candidly termed this ordinary Diet session a “parliamentary session on work-style reform” and gave top priority to the enactment of the labor reform package. However, with a considerable delay in the timetable for Diet deliberations, the bill was unable to be enacted within the initially scheduled time period and finally became law after the forcible extension of the Diet session. This fact illustrates the irrationality of the legislation. Along with public opinion, people who lost their loved ones due to overwork opposed the proposed-labor reform. This has obviously exposed the Abe government as anti-labor.

Even after the bill's enactment, in order to implement the law, at least 90 items require drawing up government and ministerial ordinances and guidelines. The Labor Ministry Labor Policy Council is expected to begin discussing drafts of ordinances and guidelines. The pressing task now is to make efforts to have the drafts include various measures to protect workers such as a measure to prevent abuse of the law. In addition, a struggle to stop the “zero-overtime-payment” system from being introduced in workplaces is important.

Further strengthen force of joint struggle

Centering on a fight against the introduction of the “zero-overtime-payment” system, movements to oppose the labor reform bill spread widely among unions regardless of national center affiliations. Joint struggles of opposition parties and concerned citizens also developed. Furthermore, united Diet efforts of opposition parties confronting the Abe administration made a major advance and brought about a string of favorable outcomes that put the administration in a bind. Based on these facts, it is necessary to strengthen the force of joint struggles further to put an end to the Abe government, which is tainted with scandals while pushing forward with anti-people policies, and open the path for realizing a true “work-style reform” after abolishing the newly-established law on the use of workers.

Past related articles:
> Extension of Diet session to force through controversial bills on labor reform and casino development is unacceptable [ June 21, 2018]
> Even less than 100 hours’ overtime a month causes ‘karoshi’ [ June 16, 2018]
> No speakers at public hearing support 'zero-overtime-pay' system [ June 14, 2018]
> Karoshi victims’ families angry at Abe gov’t for intending to steamroller through bills to weaken work hour rules [May 17, 2018]
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