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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 November 28 - December 4  > Newly enacted labor contract law will not protect labor rights
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2007 November 28 - December 4 [LABOR]

Newly enacted labor contract law will not protect labor rights

November 27 & 29, 2007
The Labor Contract Law enacted on November 28 with the support of the Liberal Democratic, Komei, and Democratic parties declares in Article 1 that the law is aimed at protecting workers. This law, however, will not protect labor rights.

The most serious point at issue is that the law enables employers to arbitrarily worsen the working conditions, including allowing wage cuts, by changing workplace regulations, even if workers are opposed to it.

Although the law in its Article 9 states that employers cannot change working conditions adversely without workers’ consent, Article 10 states that working conditions may be changed by revising workplace regulations as long as such changes are “rational”.

Since a labor contract is concluded between labor and management, a new agreement between them is necessary to change the contract.

“It is peculiar for a contract law to allow a contract to be changed without the consent of a concerned party. This goes against the principle of contract,” stated 35 scholars studying labor laws in a joint statement.

According to a survey conducted by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, an independent administrative institution, 69.8 percent of corporations have changed working conditions by revising workplace regulations and 20.5 percent of them have done so without even consulting with labor unions. While 53.4 percent stated that they explained workplace regulations to new employees, only 34.2 percent stated that their employees can freely read such regulations.

Toei Corp., a motion-picture company, began extending employment to workers aged 60 or more as required by law on condition that those workers accept deep cuts in their retirement allowance. The company has introduced this new system by simply changing its regulations. The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)-affiliated Federation of Cinema and Theatrical Workers Union of Japan members filed a lawsuit demanding the cancellation of the new system.

Tobu Sports introduced a fixed-term employment system and carried out deep wage cuts by changing its workplace regulations. The company forced its labor union to agree by threatening workers with dismissal. The workers won in the first court decision, but the company has appealed to a higher court.

Zenroren Vice President Ikuma Shigemi in a recent Diet committee meeting expressed opposition to the enactment of the law without fixing the problem, stating, “Under this law, an increasing number of workers will be forced to accept adverse changes in their working conditions, and injustice may become prevalent in workplaces.”

Japanese Communist Party Policy Commission Chair Koike Akira criticized the law for legitimizing employers’ arbitrary imposition of working conditions on workers. - Akahata, November 27 & 29, 2007
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