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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 September 19 - 25  > New prospects are opening to achieve workers’ demands
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2007 September 19 - 25 [LABOR]

New prospects are opening to achieve workers’ demands

September 20, 2007
“With the Liberal Democratic Party suffering a major defeat in the House of Councilors election, it has become very difficult for them to revise the labor laws without support from the opposition parties. The government and the ruling parties are compelled to either shelve or amend their bills. This is an extraordinary situation,” a Labor Ministry official said.

The government and the ruling parties sought to introduce a white-collar exemption system to allow employers to allow workers to work overtime without pay. But due to fierce opposition expressed by workers and the public in general, they were forced to shelve the plan for the time being. They planned to submit the bill after the House of Councilors election, but were frustrated by the ruling parties’ crushing defeat in the election.

They tried to work out a bill to revise the Labor Standards Law without the “white-collar exemption” provisions, but its passage through the Diet is expected to be difficult without making amendments.

The bill will raise the additional portion of employees pay for overtime work after 80 hours a month to 50 percent of hourly wages from the present 25 percent. The Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party of Japan are insisting that overtime premium pay should be raised to 50 percent regardless of the amount of hours of overtime work.

Something unusual happened at the government Central Council on the Minimum Wage meeting held shortly after the House of Councilors election.

In the past, the Council used to decide on a recommended amount of wage raise at the annual all-night negotiation. This year, with calls and movements increasing for a sharp increase in the hourly minimum wage to at least 1,000 yen, the Council had to put off its decision. As a result, many local minimum wage councils have recommended larger ranges of minimum wage increase. In Aomori Prefecture, the council recommended a 9 yen increase, getting out of the bottom. This increase is too modest in light of the present situation in which poverty is increasing and social disparities are widening. Yet, the possibility of larger raises in the minimum wage is increasing.

Regarding the Worker Dispatch Law, the business sector is calling for abolition of the provision requiring employers to offer to directly hire temporary workers from staffing agencies after three years.*

The ruling parties had in the majority in both houses of the Diet, and it was possible for them to ram through most bills representing the needs of the business sector regardless of the Labor Policy Council discussions. But “that is not the case after the House of Councilors election,” explained a member of the Council. Even if the House of Representatives approved them, the House of Councilors can reject them. “Such a situation will make it difficult to proceed with Diet deliberations in the same manner as before because workers opposition will likely increase.”

(*) The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) is demanding that the use of temporary workers be limited to exceptional cases, that employers be prohibited from using on-call workers for general work, and that employers offer temporary workers a permanent position after they completed three years of work. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) is also insisting that the use of on-call workers for general work be banned. Thus, conditions are increasing for labor to unite to demand stricter labor market regulation, including a ban on the use of on-call workers.

The JCP opposes easing regulations in the Worker Dispatch Law and demands drastic amendments to labor laws in order to prohibit the use of on-call workers for general work and protect temporary workers’ rights.
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