Today, tour guides from Hankyu Tour Support travelled from Tokyo to Osaka to plead their case for enrollment in health and pension (shakai hoken) at the Temma Social Insurance Agency.
Japanese law stipulates that all workers must be enrolled regardless of working hours. In practice though the law is rarely enforced, with the Social Insurance Agency using internal guidelines that stipulate only those working 3/4 the hours of a full-timers’ to be enrolled.
The case of the tour guides is further complicated by difficulties in calculating their work hours. Is being on a plane with a tour group for 12 hours work? The answer is obvious to most, but not to some government officials it seems.
The Temma Social Insurance Agency have made a ruling that these workers are ineligible for health and pension. This violates their own internal guidelines but most importantly, it is in direct opposition to the basic law which guarantees enrollment for all workers.
Before the official appointment to discuss their case with the Social Insurance Agency, there was a demonstration with 50 members from supporting unions chanting to demand compliance with the law. As the time for the appointment approached the workers, along with supporters and an Osaka Television film crew began filing into the building against the protests of one government official.
An hour later the answer is that they should submit more documents and their case will be re-examined. Let’s hope this is the beginning of Social Insurance Agency seeing sense.
Changes in the working patterns of the Japanese mean a growing number of people are either part-time, dispatch or sub-contract workers. And while the law stipulates they must be enrolled in health and pension the reality is that their is a growing underclass without the basic rights that many across the world take for granted.
The General Union is especially concerned as it is an issue close to the hearts of our foreign members, many of whom have to fight to win health and pension. It is only two years ago that we won a two year battle for enrollment of our members at ECC, a major language school in Japan.
UPDATE: In the months following, the Social Insurance Agency re-examined the cases and found all the applicants eligible for enrollment. A victory but the case shouldn’t have taken so long.