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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 January 23 - 29  > Union wins revision of ‘36 agreement’ on overtime exceeding gov’t-set danger line for death from overwork
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2019 January 23 - 29 TOP3 [LABOR]

Union wins revision of ‘36 agreement’ on overtime exceeding gov’t-set danger line for death from overwork

January 26, 2019

A local of the Japan Metal, Manufacturing, Information and Telecommunication Workers’ Union (JMITU) has succeeded in changing the so-called “36 agreement” imposing on workers more than 100 hours of overtime a month which exceeds the government-set danger line of karoshi (death from overwork).

The “36 agreement” is named after Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act which allows for setting a ceiling on overtime with a labor-management agreement.

The union was established by workers at Tobu Jukogyo Co., Ltd. (Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture) which produces marine machinery and equipment, such as grab bucket cranes, at three factories in Japan.

In February 2017, a new company president e-mailed all employees about the reverse of his predecessor’s decision on a 30,000-yen wage increase which was just implemented in the previous month. Triggered by this move, a union was organized and among 70 employees, 44 joined the union. Looking back on that time, union chair Nihei Takashi said, “More and more workers became increasingly concerned over the company’s future and their own livelihoods.”

Seeking to force the new president to carry out a 30,000- yen wage hike and to change the “36 agreement” under which the maximum permissive overtime was 10 hours a day and more than 100 hours a month, the union urged the company to conduct negotiations. However, the union’s request was rejected.

Six months later, the union decided to affiliate itself with JMITU with the aim of pressing Tobu Jukogyo to sit at the negotiation table. With the help from JMITU, the union brought the company’s refusal of a negotiation request to the Chiba Prefectural Labor Relations Commission. In March 2018, the local labor relations board issued a ruling ordering the company to negotiate with the union.

The JMITU local increased its pressure on the company through distribution of a union newsletter to all workers as well as engage in other activities. In December 2018, the union and the company agreed to revise the “36 accord” and decrease the upper limit on overtime to five hours per day and 80 hours per month. Furthermore, the union won an increase in the year-end bonus.

JMITU local chair Nihei said, “We succeeded in having the company talk with the union in a sincere manner, but this is just a first step. We’ll continue working hard to improve working conditions for everyone.”

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