At the heart of the controversy behind the unpopular (but, nevertheless, forced through) changes to the Dispatch Law (rōdōsha haken-ho) are the revisions to the law will affect the rules for dispatched employee (haken rōdōsha) contracts.
Haken rōdōsha contracts have traditionally afforded more security and rights to the worker than they would otherwise have enjoyed under consignment and service contracts (keiyaku shain), working under (often factious, and equally as abused) gyōmu itaku regulations.
For example, although intended for temporary roles, workers who find themselves in haken rōdōsha positions are expected to directly employed by a client company if the position has existed for three years.
Contrast this with keiyaku shain contracts – which often are only written for one-year durations, with the “temporary” position existing indefinitely – and you can quickly see how haken rōdōsha holds a major advantage in regards to providing job security.
In addition, haken rōdōsha affords the worker the status of being a legally recognized employee of their dispatching company (unlike keiyaku shain contract holders, who – for all intents and purposes – are considered to be independent contractors).
This status requires the worker a number of benefits – notable among them, required enrolment into Employees’ Health and Pension Insurance (shakai hoken).
As stated, previously, haken rōdōsha contracts require that the client(s) directly hire the person providing the service after the position has existed for three years.
The logic behind this requirement was as sound as it was fair: haken rōdōsha contracts were only intended to be temporary in nature. If a position has existed for three years, then that position is obviously NOT temporary, and should be treated as an indefinite term requirement.
The client could not avoid this obligation by simply firing the dispatched employee or their dispatching company to replace them with someone else, as not only would this be an unfair labour practice, but – again – the period of time was associated with the position, not with the individual worker providing that service.
In respect to this, the revisions to the dispatch law will changes things by:
(a) removing the three-year limit
Clients will no longer be obligated to directly hire a dispatched worker after a position has existed for three years. Clients will be able to use dispatched workers indefinitely.
(b) imposing a three-year limit on the dispatched worker
Although a client will no longer be obligated to provide directly employment to a dispatched worker after three years, a three-year limit per dispatched worker rule will be introduced, requiring the dispatching company to replace one dispatched worker with a new individual after a three-year duration.
(c) replacing the obligation to direct hire with a request to direct hire
The dispatching company will be required to ask the client, on a non-binding basis, if the client would like to directly hire the current dispatched worker after a period of three years – a request that the client company can decline.
(d) dispatch companies will require a license
There is a provision in the new law to allow a dispatched worker to continue working for a client beyond the three-year limit if the client asks a labour union for their opinion about the extension of the service. How this provision will play out in reality – does it have teeth, or is it merely lip-service? – remains to be seen.
Although supporters of the changes to the Dispatch Law use words such as “mobility” and “equality” to push the idea that the changes to the Dispatch Law will benefit the 1.26 million people in Japan (as of 2013) who work on temporary contracts, the reality is that temporary workers have little to gain and everything to lose from these revisions.
• Job security will be eroded by the fact that haken rōdōsha will now potentially lead to unemployment after a period of three years, rather than the promise of full-time employment.
• The “26 specialized job categories” are also be subject to the three year limit, meaning that professionals such as interpreters and translators will also need to be replaced after three years (previously, these specialized job categories were exempt from the three-year limit).
• The revised dispatch law will effectively make any progression from “temporary worker” to “full time” worker impossible, closing the door to any and all individuals who had hoped to attain full employment at the companies they (physically, day to day) work at, via long-term dispatch.
• It will further corrode women’s rights and empowerment in both society and the workforce allowing companies to continue to exploit female workers with sub-par salaries and working conditions compared to their male counterparts. In essence, whatever hits male workers will hit female workers harder.
At the time of writing, perhaps due in part to the unpopularity of the revisions, information regarding the exact details of how these revisions will directly affect the education sector are difficult to ascertain.
While there is a chance that the revisions will not retroactively affect current haken rōdōsha contracts, it is more likely that the opposite will be true, and people who are currently in their second or third years (or more) of a haken rōdōsha positions will suddenly find that they no longer have a path to full-time employment available to them.
Perhaps more depressingly, this will equally apply to people who have had their haken rōdōsha abused, and have been working in the same position far beyond the three-year limit, who will now find that the full-time employment that they should have been offered, years ago, will suddenly evaporate.
More research will have to be done in the future to answer these questions but, unfortunately, the situation is likely to be quickly exploited by dispatch companies and clients alike to the worker’s detriment.
The GENERAL UNION, along with the National Union of General Workers (Zenkoku Ippan Rōdō Kumiai Zenkoku Kyogikai) and opponents of the revisions, will continue to study the situation and advise as possible.
With a little bit of cunning, these changes might be something that can be fought on an individual level; however, the damage that will be done to the work force in general by the Liberal Democratic Party’s cogent desire to do whatever it wants, will likely be felt for some time.
To learn even more about this issue, please visit the following external links:
• “What Will Come After Revision Of Worker Dispatch Law?”; Japan Press Weekly: http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=7649
• “Deregulation: Of The Temp Industry, By The Industry, For The Industry”; Japan Press Weekly: http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=8454
• “Experience As Temps Won’t Help Them Find Regular Job”; Japan Press Weekly: http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=8412
• Temp Workers Dealt Blow As Dispatch Bill Clears Lower House; Japan Times: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/19/national/politics-diplomacy/temp-workers-dealt-blow-as-dispatch-bill-clears-lower-house/
If you are concerned about the changes to the dispatch law and how they will affect you, contact the GENERAL UNION at:
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