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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 May 16 - 22  > Karoshi victims’ families angry at Abe gov’t for intending to steamroller through bills to weaken work hour rules
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2018 May 16 - 22 [LABOR]

Karoshi victims’ families angry at Abe gov’t for intending to steamroller through bills to weaken work hour rules

May 17, 2018

Putting on mourning attire, families of people who had died from overwork (karoshi) on May 16 held a press conference in the Labor Ministry office to make public their statement demanding that the Abe government abandon a package of bills to relax work hour regulations under the name of “work-style reform”.

The Abe administration is intending to bulldoze through the bills, which include a bill to introduce a “high-level professionals” exemption system, through the House of Representatives next week. The system is criticized as basically no different from the “zero-overtime payment” system because it is designed to exclude workers such as financial brokers and researchers, who are engaged in jobs requiring highly specialized skills and knowledge, from the rules regarding working hours and overtime work.

Those who attended the press conference were representatives of a nationwide network of family members of karoshi victims, the Labor Lawyers Association of Japan (LLAJ), and the National Defense Counsel for Victims of Karoshi.

Teranishi Emiko, who heads the nationwide network, stressed that the government- proposed “white-collar exemption” scheme will surely increase the risk of death by overwork. Teranishi said, “It is unforgivable for the government to create a situation in which more and more workers will be forced to work themselves to death and their families will be made to suffer the keenest distress,” adding that she asked Prime Minister Abe for a meeting.

LLAJ head Natsume Ichiro criticized the “high-level professionals” system by saying that it will destroy the norm based on the 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek principle under the Labor Standards Act.

Kawahito Hiroshi, secretary general of the lawyers’ group working to support karoshi victims’ families, talked about a case in which the death of a 28-year-old man who worked under the discretionary work system was recently recognized as being related to overwork. The discretionary structure allows employers to pay workers for the previously agreed upon number of hours instead of the actual number of hours worked. Kawahito said that unlike the discretionary labor system, under the “high-level professionals” system, employers will be free from having to follow work hour rules and restrictions. He expressed his strong opposition to the introduction of such a setup.

Past related articles:
> JCP calls for work system in line with 8-hour workday principle [ May 12, 2018]
> Shii: Gov’t should give up submitting pro-business ‘work-style reform’ bill to Diet [ February 23, 2018]
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