The Rengo, the Japan Trade Union Confederation, demanded the government to revise a program, called the High-Level Professional Workers Scheme, in which a professional worker earning high annual income should be removed from rules restricting working hours. The confederation, reportedly, has told to approve the program if the government accepts the requests. A trilateral agreement, however, of the government, the labor and employers was cancelled for a moment.
Rule of 8-hour Work
The Abe government will submit a bill to modify the Labor Standard Law in the coming extraordinary session of Diet.
As is well known, a bill to alter the Labor Standard Law was presented to the Diet for debates in April, 2015, in order to incorporate a scheme on highly-skilled workers. But the bill has been harshly criticized: it is a law by which workers should be compelled to work as employers want with a fixed sum of salary, a law by which overwork hours should not be counted for payment and a law that should urge Karo-shi, or an overwork death, of workers. The bill has never been debated in the parliament.
Last year the Cabinet approved the High-Level Professional Workers Scheme: it should cover workers whose annual income exceeds 10.75 million Yen and to these workers the regulations on working hours should not be applied on the ground that they are engaged in highly skilled jobs. That means a wage system by which payment should be made in accordance with achievements to be replaced with the current system in which wages are set on the hour basis.
The then-Minister of Health, Labor and Social Welfare Shiozaki Yasuhisa told in the press meeting held after the cabinet meeting last year: ‘it is necessary to review over the sphere to be covered by the flexi-time working practice and to create a program for highly-skilled workers. The measures will heighten labor productivity here in Japan amid the growing economic globalization process and encourage the working population to develop incentive and creativity. They constitute an important pillar in reforming working habits of the country.’
Meanwhile, however, the labor side has rejected the scheme as it does not limit working hours and that it would push workers to overworking and that more workers would be exposed to risks. The labor has resiliently opposed the law that may advocate a long-hour working routine and may fail paying for overwork hours.
On the other hand the employers’ side, the Council on Labor Policy, appreciates the flexi-time working system as ‘it allows workers to work in a flexible and efficient way’. Meanwhile the Rengo has argued ruthlessly, claiming that ‘workers may not be paid for overwork and be ordered to work for longer hours. They may be led to Karo-shi.
The current Labor Standard Law prohibits a labor practice that exceeds an eight-hour work a day and 40-hour work a week. If a law is enacted that allows nonpayment for overwork hours, the regulations on working hours will be annulled. In an ultimate case a 24-hour work a day might be implemented.
Let’s End Overwork Practice!
The Rengo demanded the government several revisions in exchange of accepting the program;
(1) an obligation to be imposed on employers to guarantee workers 104 days-off a year,
(2) setting of the upper limit of working hours, and
(3) selecting one of the four options to be introduced: the interval-guarantee system from the end of the day’s work to the following morning, two-consecutive-week holidays, and regular health checks and temporary ones
Nevertheless, setting the upper limit of working hours by an agreement between the labor and the management is harmful as that will not work to rectify a practice of long work hours.
A practice of long-hour work impoverishes not only workers but also their families and the whole society. It is a social evil that affects seriously on the life of people.
A legal restraint on working hours has a social and public value. We must recognize and understand well the importance.
August 22, 2017