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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 January 29 - February 4  > Gov’t seeks to give companies free hand to use temps
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2014 January 29 - February 4 TOP3 [LABOR]

Gov’t seeks to give companies free hand to use temps

January 30, 2014

The management-labor-government advisory panel to the labor minister on January 29 finalized a proposal to allow corporations to use agency workers without time limits, ignoring the internal opposition from labor representatives.

The proposal will possibly add momentum to the trend of replacing regular employees with temps and inevitably provoke anger from workers.

The current regulations prohibited companies from using temps for more than three years on one job, excluding 26 professional jobs like interpreting services.

However, the proposed revision will eliminate this limit so that employers can use temps in all job categories if the company changes from one temp to another every three years.

Shintani Nobuhiko of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), who took part in the meeting as a representative of labor, expressed his opposition to the proposal by saying, “It will cause a cutback in protection of agency workers.” Objections from the labor side were attached to the council proposal.

On the same day, a protest action against the panel decision took place in front of the Labor Ministry building organized by a joint action body that was established by the Japan Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo) and other independent unions.

A representative of Canon non-regular workers’ union said, “No one wants to work in unstable employment with low wages. The law on the use of temps should be revised to meet our demands.”

* * *

The proposal adopted by the task force of the Labor Policy Council violates workers’ demands to obtain job security.

Temporary employment is an indirect work system in which a temp staffing agency dispatches workers to another firm and have them work there. For those workers, this is very unstable.

In the prewar and wartime period, labor brokers were rampant across the country and many workers suffered from low pay and poor working conditions. After World War II, the newly-enacted Labor Standards Law and Employment Security Law banned such an intermediary exploitation system as well as required employers to hire employees directly.

In 1985, at the request of business circles seeking to cut down on labor costs, the government enacted the Worker Dispatch Law on condition that the use of temporary workers should be limited to particular job categories. Since then, the use of agency workers has expanded due to a series of deregulation measures, such as lifting the ban on using temp staff in manufacturing jobs in 2004.

After the financial crisis in 2008, quite a few temporary workers were fired around the nation, which became a serious social problem. However, no effective measures to protect temp staff have been taken to this day.

The latest proposal is intended to allow companies to replace regular employees with temp staffers regardless of the type of job. Though it claims that the use of temps should be “temporary in principle”, there is no guarantee for that.

The task force forcibly adopted the proposal despite strong opposition from workers’ representatives. The government plans to come up with a bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law again based on the proposal and then submit it to the current ordinary Diet session. It is urgently needed to strengthen the movement to oppose the adverse revision of the legislation.

Past related article:
> Human resources business expects golden opportunity under Abe’s labor policy [September 11, 2013]
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