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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 February 28 - March 6  > Where do 'sincere responses' and 'harmonious Diet proceedings' go?
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2018 February 28 - March 6 [POLITICS]

Where do 'sincere responses' and 'harmonious Diet proceedings' go?

March 1, 2018

Akahata editorial

Public demand has been increasing since data fabrication regarding the discretionary work system surfaced for a set of "work-style reform" bills to not be submitted to the Diet. On February 28, however, the government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the ruling parties (Liberal Democratic and Komei parties) forcibly passed a draft budget for the next fiscal year through the Lower House. Their arrogant attitude has aroused public anger.

Six opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, demanded that the government re-conduct a survey on the actual conditions of the discretionary work system and summon witnesses involved in the "Moritomo Gakuen" and "Kake Gakuen" scandals to the Diet. The government, however, disregarded these demands and used their majority force to steamroller the draft budget, falling far short of any semblance to "sincere responses" and "harmonious Diet proceedings". The runaway steering of the Diet ignoring public opinion is absolutely impermissible.

Voices of 'opposition' become louder

The government used the data, which were found to be unreliable to be used as a comparison, to disguise working hours under the discretionary labor setup to be shorter than the standard work hour structure. The public distrust and anger at the falsification of data regarding the discretionary work system is continuing to increase.

Opinion polls conducted by the mass media also made clear the growing public distrust. A Mainichi Shimbun survey shows that 57% of respondents are in "opposition" to the expansion of the discretionary work system, far exceeding the 18% in "support". In a Nikkei Shinbum survey, 66% answered they are "not satisfied" with the government explanation and 75% see that a re-examination of the actual state of the system is "necessary".

The Abe government, however, continues refusing to listen to public opinion. With the data revealed to be fake, it is only reasonable for the government to cancel the submission of the "work-style reform" bills whose centerpiece is a wider use of the discretionary work system. Nevertheless, PM Abe and the governing forces still persist in moving to submit and enact the bills.

Grilled jointly by the six opposition parties in Diet meetings and facing public criticism, the prime minister had to say, “Without sufficiently grasping the actual situation, the government as a whole cannot advance (February 28).” Then, he should immediately decide to give up on submitting the “work style reform” bill themselves.

In deliberations at House of Representatives Budget Committee meetings, various problems pertaining to the falsified data regarding the discretionary work system have come to light one after another, calling into question the responsibility of PM Abe who gives top priority to the enactment of the bills including one written up based on the data in question. Despite this situation, before carrying out reinvestigations and clarifying the prime minister’s responsibility, the government pushed forward with the passage of the draft budget. Such an attitude of arrogance is extremely inappropriate. It is unreasonable for the Abe government and the ruling block to give no consideration to the six opposition parties’ demands.

Although PM Abe justifies the expansion of the discretionary work system by arguing that it is “necessary to help workers work by utilizing their abilities and talents”, Abe’s argument is pure sophistry. As bereaved families of workers who died due to overwork repeatedly point out, workers do not enjoy discretion. The reality about the discretionary work system is that workers will be forced to work excessively long hours, resulting in deaths from overwork.

Public pressure on Abe government increased

The expansion of the discretionary work system and other measures in the work-style reform bills have been promoted by organizations in the business world such as the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren). This is an obvious fact given that the framework of the bills was decided on in meetings of the Industrial Competitiveness Council which is chaired by PM Abe and whose members do not include labor representatives.

Now is the time to put a stop to the Abe government which is eager to respond to the business world’s demands and endangers workers’ health and lives. The government is now facing a delay in submission of the work-style reform bills. It is the Abe government that is being driven into a corner. The urgent task is to further increase public opposition and movements to pressure the government to give up the bills’ submission.
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