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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 June 28 - July 4  > Who is person representing majority of workers in workplace?
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2017 June 28 - July 4 [LABOR]

Who is person representing majority of workers in workplace?

June 27, 2017
The Labor Standards Act and other labor laws require employers to conclude with a labor representative an agreement when making disadvantageous changes to working conditions such as employees’ work schedules.

The Labor Standards Act stipulates that in a workplace where a labor union organized by a majority of the workers exists, the labor union will become the labor representative. The law also states that in a workplace without a union organized by a majority of the workers, a person representing a majority of the workers at the workplace (the labor representative) should be selected among workers who are not in managerial positions through democratic procedures, including a vote.

At present, the unionization rate in Japan stands at 17.3%. In terms of business size, the percentage of unionized workers is 44% in big businesses with more than 1,000 employees, 12.2% in businesses with 100 to 999 employees, and 0.9% in those with less than 99 employees.

Apart from large corporations, in many companies with no union representing a majority of workers, how is the labor representative elected?

According to the Labor Ministry data presented to a meeting of the ministry’s Labor Policy Council on May 12, the following are the most common measures used to select a labor representative: a company appoints a labor representative or the representative of an internal friendship organization consisting of board members and employees doubles as a labor representative.

These measures, however, go against the law. An agreement reached between the management and the labor representative elected using such measures will be regarded as invalid.

Here is an example. A Tokyo firm made a contract on overwork by nominating the head of the firm’s friendship group as the labor representative. However, the validity of the contract was challenged in court.

In the lawsuit, the court ruled that the firm’s group aiming to promote an integration of workers and executives is not a trade union, and nullified the accord.

It is a serious problem that elections for labor representatives are improperly held in many companies. The need is for labor authorities to implement measures enabling the labor representative to be chosen in a democratic manner.
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