The main thread of the lead off was that the gains of national health and pension systems came about due to the agitation of workers and unions over decades but that despite having our rights enshrined in law many employers, with the active collusion of the bureaucracy, deny these rights to their employees. This is particularly so throughout the education industry where an internal guideline signed by three kacho within the Social Insurance agency, not the minister or vice-minister and never passed in the Diet, brought in the so-called 3/4 rule whereby employers can refuse to enroll any employee not working 3/4 or more of the hours of a regular employee.
Most participants were angry that whilst being denied their rights by our employers many were forced onto the National Health and Pension Plan therefore having to pay a higher percentage of our income than regular employees for much worse benefits. The majority said they wanted to be in shigaku kyosai or shakai hoken, though one or two were happy to enrolled in private insurance. Some pointed out that whilst this is fine for some individuals, the drawbacks are too great for the majority of people and there was a lively exchange of ideas on how to push for broader enrollment especially if the government decides to enforce enrollment in kokumin kenko hoken or kokumin hoken through the workplace meaning up to 40% of the workforce in Japan would be forced to pay exorbitant premiums for limited benefits. It was noted that the high cost of kokumin kenko hoken is mainly because it supports the majority of elderly people, who naturally are some of the biggest users of healthcare services. Many of these elderly people would have been enrolled in shakai hoken or shigaku kyosai when employed, and paying lower premiums. The participants thought it was only fair that elderly people should be properly cared for, but that the burden needs to be more equally shared in society and that the low paid, contract and temporary workers shouldn’t be forced to basically subsidise higher paid workers.
The meeting ended with the majority of participants calling on the union movement in Japan to take a more active role in pushing for universal coverage in shakai hoken/shigaku kyosai and the General Union members particularly wanted the GU to re-prioritise this issue in the short and long term.
The next open discussion – all invited – will be on the subject of “Temporary, contract, casual and dispatch labour and its problems. 3 members will briefly introduce this subject and how it affects those in the private language sector, in the universities and foreign dispatch labour to factories before opening it to the floor.
Date: Monday February 16th
Location: GU Office in Temmabashi