One pillar of the Abe government's growth package is creation of 'a special zone where companies are allowed to easily sack workers'. It intends to deregulate criteria to fire workers by 'setting rules by a contract'. Article 27 of the Constitution stipulates that 'working conditions shall be fixed by laws'. A concept of the special zone violates the Constitution.
CREATION OF A ZONE BEYOND CONSTITUTION MUST NOT BE AUTHORISED
Liberal Democratic Party's promise for business leaders
Prime Minister Abe talks about that he is intended to make Japan as the most advantageous nation for employers to operate. The government panels like the Council for Regulatory Reform and the Council for Industrial Competitiveness, which faithfully respond to Prime Minister's order, assert to create an industry zone where employers should be entitled to dismiss workers freely.
The government calls such an area as 'special employment zone', where the management is allowed to fire workers, the upper limit of working hours is eliminated and no wage is paid to overtime work. In other words, an employer could let workers work as much as he/she wishes. The practice denies and challenges in the name of the growth strategy the constitutional principle that working conditions shall be fixed by laws.
These developments constitute a pledge of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for the business circle; the LDP asserted that it would implement a growth policy after its victory in the general elections. The extraordinary session of the Diet began on October 15, and relevant bills are ready for submission for parliamentary debates.
Attempts to reverse history
The government plots to reverse the workers' history down to the pre-industrial revolution era; vulnerable workers, even women and children, were forced to work for long hours, in the midnight and in the unhygienic and dangerous conditions. We must not forget that the rights and working conditions we enjoy today are legacy of harsh, often bloody, struggles of workers in the past.
In England where the Industrial Revolution began first in the history, a factory law was enacted in 1802 to protect children who worked in the factories. Forty-five years later it turned in to legislation to set a 10-hour work a day. The accomplishment extended to France, and then to the whole Europe.
It was a hundred and ten years later, in 1911, that the Factory Law was legislated in Japan where the industrial revolution began after England. It was because not only that capitalist development came later, but also that employers were adamantly refused such a law. The reason was that they thought development of state and economy would be obstructed if workers were protected.
Labor unions' duty
During the war the Factory Law was lifted off and people in the country as a whole were mobilized to work for the war. It was the post war constitution that stipulates under Article 27 that working conditions should be set by laws. In compliance with the Constitution the Labor Standard Law was enacted while the Factory Law was abrogated.
Three laws, namely the Labor Standard Law, the Labor Union Law and Labor Relations Adjustment Law were enacted as universal laws under which no exception is admitted. These laws are guaranteed by the Constitution and workers should not be fired without right reasons and they should not be forced to work in the harsh conditions.
However, the Abe government attempts to establish 'an exceptional' district for easy dismissal of workers. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, naturally, opposes the government's plan on the ground that the labor laws must be identical across the nation.
Mr. Uchihashi Katsuto, an economic critic, accuses the special zone plan, defining it as a place where a constitutional address is absent. What is raison d'etre of trade unions? It is a key question as the history must not be reversed.
October 22, 2013