Helped by cheap Yen appreciation and high stock prices, the Abe government enjoys a relatively high supporting rate, but lately it lingers around. Premier Abe, taking well advantage of the opportunity, proposes to revise Article 96 of Constitution and put the issue as a contention in the coming Upper House election scheduled in July. He launches simultaneously a deregulation policy as a priority of his Growth Strategy, one of his three targets presented in the so-called Abenomics policy. The vital point is to liberalize dismissal of workers.
FREE DISCHARGE OF WORKERS IS A CENTRAL ISSUE
The second round Abe government was formulated in December last year. Immediately after its inception Premier appealed eagerly about economic revitalization, setting up the Headquarters for Economic Revitalization and organizing the Council for Industrial Competitiveness, a subordinate panel of the said headquarters to discuss and investigate a growth strategy to intensify international competitiveness and performance of Japanese industry.
Representative of Labor - Excluded
The Council has 16 members, including Premier Abe as Chairman: ten of them come from the private sector and eight of them are major business leaders. This means the council has an easy and straight access to the industry circle.
It has seven sections, including those on energy and participation to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) scheme. A reform of employment system is one of the main subjects to commit in, but representatives from the labor circle are absent. The council excluded them, because they are obstacles in promoting the deregulation policy to encourage flexible movement of workforce. This area is the center of Abe's agenda.
Interests of the management and of the labor split sharply. The labor side is in the overwhelmingly disadvantageous position. Therefore it is common in the international community to invite three different parties of the management, the labor and the academic circle to a government panel to discuss labor laws.
The council has had several meetings. The fourth round of meeting was held March 15 when the members from the private sector requested revision of laws so that employers could freely sack workers. They suggested discussions to make rules to fire employees in exchange of payment of money.
President Hasegawa Yasuchika of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited told during the discussion period on 'intensification of human resource development and a reform in the employment system: 'a clear specification should be made in the labor contract on the rule of free dismissal of workers'. He proposed 'a scheme by which workers can be discharged if a payment is made for a new job-hunting'.
This means to abolish Article 16 of Labor Contract Law which prohibits employers to misuse the right of discharge of workers. It says: a discharge of a worker is annulled if it lacks a right reason from an objective point of view and it should not be regarded as right from the shared social standard because such a practice is considered as abuse of the right on the side of employer.
President Niinami Takeshi of Lawson, INC. claimed: 'it is extremely hard to meet the established four conditions on dismissal of workers, so more flexible selection standards should be made to discharge workers'. Thus the council encourages the government to intensify a trend of free sacking of workers.
The Abe government emphasizes 'regeneration of industry', demanding to 'replace a matured (declining) industry with a growing industry and enhance a smooth flow of workforce without producing unemployment'. In this context it attempts to alter the employment structure; from preserving employment to transferring workforce. In other words employers are to be authorized to sack workers freely.
Big Bang of Labor Version
The Abe government will finalize the growth strategy in June as one of the three priority areas of his agenda. It focuses on deregulation in the labor sphere and liberalization of dismissal of workers.
The first round of Abe government, succeeding the Koizumi's structural reform line, attempted to implement Big Bang in the labor area, including a system to exclude managerial workers from the coverage of labor laws, the so-called Exemption of White Collar Workers, but the trial failed due to his retreat.
We, workers, are determined to reject a success in his second attempt.
May 14, 2013