One part of this is the nasty item nicknamed the “Zero Overtime Bill”, already decided on by the Cabinet. For now, this bill would revise some of the regulations on overtime work, but only for those (of the workers covered by overtime regulations under the current labor Standards Law) who are “white-collar workers earning 10.75 million yen or more per year”. In other words, the point is to change the law so that overtime rates need not be paid.
The government commission says that the reason for introducing this system is “to respond to the needs of workers who prefer a work style evaluated by results and not by hours”. But is this really something that these workers desire? Some may think that “if you’re making 10.75 million yen a year, well, that’s fine”. But in Japan right now, there are only 27 listed companies where a 40-year-old employee is estimated to earn 10.75 million per year. This is less than one percent of the approximately 3600 listed companies counted. Looking at it this way, even a generous estimate would still be less than one-tenth of the total number of workers.
Furthermore, once the bill is passed, it can later be amended to expand its scope–in other words, it can easily be imagined that they will move to lower the salary limit. What is worrying about removing overtime-pay regulations is not only that overtime pay itself will be cut, but that workers may be forced to work endlessly long hours. In fact, at the same time as this bill, an amendment was proposed that would expand the Discretionary Labor System (or “flex-time system”)–so far allowed only for project-business type workers such as researchers and reporters–to cover ordinary sales work.
Welfare and Labor Minister Shiozaki is closely connected to this bill; and perhaps being in such a position is why he expressed it plainly as “giving birth to something small, and nourishing it to grow bigger”.
To deal with this total worsening of the labor-law system, Zenrokyo (National Trade Union Council) has called on other friendly unions far and wide, announcing a “National Caravan Against Total Worsening of the Labor Laws”. In Osaka, responding to this call, we have decided to get the Zenrokyo, Zenkowan (All Japan Dockworkers Union) and Zennikken (All Japan Construction Union) sound-cars moving and carry out a citywide propaganda action after participating in the lunchtime protest (in Minami-Morimachi) on May 19.
Also, on May 21 at L Theater, eight Osaka lawyers’ organizations are jointly holding a “Say No to Endless Work for Fixed (Low) Pay!” emergency meeting. We would like to propose that all our unions and members come out in full force for this. As a situation report and keynote speech at this meeting, Ms. Takenobu Mieko of Wako University will give a lecture entitled “Women Can’t Play a Role, and Can’t Raise a Child Either–Japan Devoured by Zero Overtime”.
While the Law to Stop Overwork Death gets passed, on the other hand this kind of “law to promote overwork death” gets steamrollered through. This is Japan today. Now is the time when the real ability and latent strength of unions will be put to the test. The situation is anything but bright, but we mean to keep up the struggle for a society that is easy for everyone to work in.
From Osaka Zenroykyo News Issue286, May 2017