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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 4 - 10  > JCP will work to foil PM Abe’s pro-business ‘work-style reform’ scheme
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2018 April 4 - 10 [POLITICS]
editorial 

JCP will work to foil PM Abe’s pro-business ‘work-style reform’ scheme

April 8, 2018

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Abe Cabinet on April 6 approved a package of bills to implement pro-business “work-style reform”, a top priority of the Abe administration. The Abe government seeks to enact the bills in the current session of the Diet. Opinion polls, however, showed that a majority of the respondents objected to the package of “work-style reform” legislation. The government should withdraw the bills by accepting the public opposition to them and not attempt to force them through.

The package consists of eight bills to revise labor laws, including the Labor Standards Law. Regarding amendments to the Labor Standards Law, the package proposes to introduce a “zero-overtime payment” system and set a legal upper limit on overtime. The Abe government initially intended to incorporate in the package the expansion of the use of the discretionary labor system which allows employers to pay wages for the previously agreed-upon work hours, not for actual number of hours worked. The government, however, was forced to give up on this intent due to the revelation of the Labor Ministry’s falsification of data regarding a survey on working hours under the discretionary work system.

A bill regarding the discretionary system was removed from the package, but there still exists a bill related to the white-collar exemption (the “zero-overtime payment” bill) under which workers whose jobs require highly specialized knowledge and skills are excluded from the overtime rules. The proposed white-collar exemption system has been criticized more harshly than the discretionary system for its potential to allow for excessively long working hours leading to overwork-induced deaths (karoshi). The “zero-overtime payment” bill is designed to bypass working hour rules. So, if enacted, it will enable employers to force workers to work around the clock for 48 consecutive days.

This is why trade unions, the association for bereaved families of karoshi victims, lawyers’ groups, and a broad range of civil groups have been opposing the PM Abe-proposed white-collar exemption. They said that it will facilitate excessively long working hours and increase the risk of death from overwork. They also criticized the zero-overtime payment bill for going against the act to promote countermeasures against karoshi.

On top of that, a bill to set the legal cap on overtime allows for an exception that employers can impose on workers less than 100 hours of overtime a month or an average of 80 hours of monthly overtime over a period of two to six months. Currently, the 80-hour monthly overtime limit is used as the yardstick for official recognition of karoshi. Each of the bills in the package will be used as a tool to drive workers to literally work to death from overwork. It is unforgivable for the government to bulldoze through the labor law relaxation package in defiance of opposition from workers and the general public.

The Japanese Communist Party will work even harder to develop cooperation among unions of different national center affiliations and joint efforts of opposition parties and concerned citizens in order to force the Abe government to withdraw the eight-bill package.

Past related articles:
> Shii: 6-party unification forces PM Abe to give up expansion of discretionary work system [March 2, 2018]
> Shii: Gov’t should give up submitting pro-business ‘work-style reform’ bill to Diet [February 23, 2018]
> Labor ministry’s panel begins discussing relaxation of working hour rules [September 9, 2017]

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