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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 February 6 - 12  > JCP Shii in the Diet denounces Canon for using temps as ‘disposable workers’
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2008 February 6 - 12 TOP3 [POLITICS]

JCP Shii in the Diet denounces Canon for using temps as ‘disposable workers’

February 9, 2008
Shii strongly urged the prime minister to fundamentally change the Worker Dispatch Law into a law that protects the rights of temporary workers.

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo in a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on February 8 strongly urged Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo to fundamentally change the Worker Dispatch Law into a law that protects the rights of temporary workers.

Shii used his question time to illustrate how corporations are using temporary workers as “disposable workers.”

Among temporary workers, “on-call day laborers” are suffering from the most unstable working conditions and deprived of their rights.

“I was told to work at a warehouse, so I went there with cotton work gloves. But it was a deep-freeze storage house, and my hands got frostbitten after several hours. Since another day laborer will go to work there the next day, the company doesn’t care about such a problem,” Shii quoted one of the complaints that the JCP received from temporary workers.

Shii highlighted issues arising from the current Worker Dispatch Law.

In the case in which Goodwill, a major staffing company, was ordered to suspend its operations for having repeatedly committed illegal labor practices, although a criminal charge was filed against a company that has no staffing agency license but nonetheless was involved in “double dispatches” to receive temporary workers from Goodwill and send them to another company, no criminal charges were filed against those staffing agencies with licenses, including Goodwill. Moreover, companies that have accepted temporary workers from those agencies involved in the case have not been punished. Nor were their names made public.

With regard to the issue of the “disguised contract labor,” only 0.2 percent of temporary workers who have been forced to work under illegal working conditions have gained full-time positions after the Labor Ministry provided instructions to the companies concerned.

“The government protects companies supplying and hiring temporary workers, but fails to protect them as workers. Don’t you think this as unreasonable?” Shii asked the prime minister.

Shii stressed that the current Worker Dispatch Law has a major defect.

The government, in principle, prohibits companies from replacing full-time positions with temporary positions and limit the term in which they can continue to use the same temporary workers in order for this principle to take effect.

However, in order to evade the rule, many companies are employing tactics that exploit loopholes in the law such as repeatedly renewing short-term employment contracts or repeatedly changing “work groups” or “sections” to which particular temporary workers belong.

There have been cases in which the Labor Ministry ordered companies to redress their practice of continuing to use temporary workers beyond the term limit. In spite of the government measure, however, no temporary workers have obtained regular positions.

There is no effective enactment measure to truly protect temporary workers, stressed Shii. He pointed out that since restrictions on the staffing business were essentially removed in 1999, the number of temporary workers has sharply increased while the number of full-time workers has decreased.

Shii revealed the large-scale use of temporary workers by Canon Inc., which is led by Mitarai Fujio, the chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

A Canon document for internal use that Shii showed stated that use of outside staff will greatly contribute to reducing the labor cost.

In fact, Oita Canon Material Inc., a Canon subsidiary, uses more temporary or contract workers (1,720 workers) than workers directly hired by the company (1,160 workers).

One of the young temporary workers told Shii that after deductions for taxes and various charges he only receives less than 100,000 yen a month and that he is neither covered by a health insurance nor enrolled in a pension plan.

Shii stressed that workers even at a “world-renowned company” suffer from such poor working conditions. In reply, Fukuda said, “I will instruct the Labor Ministry to investigate the situation.”

Citing a recent ILO report, Shii demanded strengthened regulations in labor laws, stating, “Japanese society faces a bleak future unless the government restricts the practice of non-regular employment.”

The prime minister came to admit that it is not good for young people to take up unstable employment in the long term and stated that the government will pay more attention to the issue.
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