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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 16 - 22  > Drastic revision of Worker Dispatch Law is essential
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2008 January 16 - 22 [LABOR]

Drastic revision of Worker Dispatch Law is essential

January 21, 2008
Akahata Editorial

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has drafted a new guideline for the use of temporary workers for day work. This was in response to calls for improvement in the typically unstable employment conditions arranged in illegal ways. The move came in the wake of suspending the operations of the major staffing agency Goodwill Group for violating the law.

Workers are demanding the bare minimum

Day temporary workers are usually contacted either by mobile phone or by e-mail from staffing agencies where they have signed up for work. They go to railway stations as told by the staffing agency without any information about the work they are going to do. The place of work changes every day. Even if they realize that the employer is treating them in a manner that is in violation of the law, they are forced to endure any unfair practices because if they complain about their treatment, the staffing agency will no longer arrange jobs for them.

The new guideline prohibits agencies from deducting money from wages under the name of various business expenses, such as data equipment fees, except for cases that have clear reasons for it and are in compliance with the labor agreement. It also provides that the time for transportation to the worksite must be counted as work-time and remunerated.

In order to prevent illegal labor practices such as “double dispatching”, the guideline requires staffing agencies to get information about jobs assigned to temp workers and to regularly visit the temp workers’ workplaces. It requires companies using temporary workers to inform them of the details of the jobs assigned to them and to regularly check workplaces.

These are in response to the minimum demands of temporary workers.

Illegal practices by major staffing agencies, including Goodwill and Fullcast, have been exposed and they were ordered to suspend their operations because they have been taking unfair advantage of workers’ weak positions. The ministry should be held responsible for ignoring illegal practices. The problem will not be solved just by applying administrative measures against companies or by establishing guidelines for protecting workers.

The Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) is seeking further revision of the Worker Dispatch Law in order to deregulate the use of temporary workers, the aim being to give employers greater freedom to use “disposable workers”.

Although workers and trade unions have been demanding that the labor ministry revise the Worker Dispatch Law to ban the use of temporary day laborers, the ministry shelved the revision on that score. If the ministry’s aim is to coopt the workers’ movement just by formulating a guideline without revising the current defective law, we must reject it.

A complete overhaul of the Law is essential if we are to put an end to the present miserable conditions that ignore workers’ human dignity.

Last December, the Japanese Communist Party proposed revising the Worker Dispatch Law to make it more strict regarding the use of temporary workers. The JCP document was entitled “Establish new rules for staffing temporary workers to encourage employers to promote them to full-time positions and give them equal treatment.” It proposes changing the title of the law to the “Temporary Workers Protection Law” in order to secure temporary workers’ rights. It calls for the use of temporary workers to be limited to temporary jobs and for such workers to be employees of staffing agencies. It says staffing temporary workers for day work should be banned. It calls for the law to require companies using temporary workers to offer them full-time positions after one year of employment. It calls for the principle of equal treatment of temporary workers doing the same work as the full-time workers.

The JCP proposal has received favorable responses from many people as a “powerful message” or as “a proposal that must be established by all means.” The proposal is also a topic of discussion on the Internet.

The JCP is holding discussions with trade unions and other organizations with the aim of forming a consensus and increasing the common struggle to have the proposal enacted.

Making use of the guideline

The tenacious actions of workers and unions have been successful in forcing the labor ministry to issue directives calling for the elimination of forced overtime work without pay and for restrictions to be imposed on the abuse of temporary workers disguised as individual contractors.

Workers and unions are called upon to use the guideline to take temporary workers out of the miserable working conditions and develop their struggle to get the law drastically revised.
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