The "Five Year Cliff” vs. Article 19

In many companies and industries across Japan, contracts with wording such as "expires with fiscal year 2017” are quickly being penned with the aim of denying limited-term workers the chance to switch to unlimited-term employment in the spring of 2018.

What our long experience with these matters has taught is that more than a few employers will happily ignore even the law - let alone ethics or common sense - in order to secure and expand their own profits.

This is why, by depending simply on the "good faith" of management, it is extremely difficult for workers to get even what is guaranteed by law.

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We have already let you know that the Education Ministry contacted various national university corporations (under their jurisdiction across the country) twice in December, 2016, to inform them that "termination of employment for the purpose of [stopping] limited-term employees' conversion to unlimited term is not desirable".

Simply put, the government has put universities on notice to follow the law.

If we make good use of this information, it can be of help to us in realizing unlimited-term employment in every workplace.

Therefore, even against companies that seek to circumvent the law for the sake of profiteering, we still have a "weapon" to use against them.

Below, we present the Article 19 of the Labor Contract Law, effective as of August 10th, 2012.

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Article 19

If, by the expiration date of the contract term of a fixed-term labor contract which falls under any of the following items, a Worker applies for a renewal of the said fixed-term labor contract, or if a Worker applies for the conclusion of another fixed-term labor contract without delay after the said contract term expires, and the Employer's refusal to accept the said application lacks objectively reasonable grounds and is not found to be appropriate in general societal terms, it is deemed that the Employer accepts the said application with the same labor conditions as the contents of the prior fixed-term labor contract:

(i) the said fixed-term labor contract has been repeatedly renewed in the past, and it is found that terminating the said fixed-term labor contract by not renewing it when the contract term expires is, in general social terms, equivalent to terminating a labor contract without a fixed term by expressing the intention to fire a Worker who has concluded the said labor contract without a fixed term;

(ii) it is found that there are reasonable grounds upon which the said Worker expects the said fixed-term labor contract to be renewed when the said fixed-term labor contract expires.

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In short, Article 19 states that even with a limited-term contract, contract renewal cannot be denied without reasonable grounds.

Employers with a little knowledge of the situation will know that they cannot just directly say "we don't want to switch you to an unlimited contract" to an employee, so they are likely to come up with various excuses to get around the "problem" instead (such as the aforementioned "contract expires with fiscal year 2017" excuse).

How will labor unions, aiming for employment security (i.e. conversion to unlimited term), respond?

What is certain is that employment security is the earnest desire of most irregular workers - including those who are not union members.

When unions fight for this earnest common demand of all irregular workers, making use of Article 19 of the Labor Contract Law (alongside other means), we feel that the fight will gain widespread sympathy and support.

Then, when we can connect that sympathy and support to expanding our unions, progress and eventual victory will become more certain.

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(Translated from Japanese)

 

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