Below are the main contents of the Osaka Labor Bureau’s comments on avoiding conversion of limited-term contracts to unlimited contracts based upon the partially amended Labor Contract Act.
(1) The right to conversion of a limited-term contract to an unlimited contract is given to all workers who have worked longer than 5 years on limited-term contracts. Therefore, the employer has to accept it.
(2) Many workers are expected to obtain this right from April 1st, 2018. It is clearly unacceptable to terminate an employment contract for the purpose of avoiding this conversion.
(3) Even if such a termination is pushed through, it will be in violation of the “Termination of Employment Doctrine” stated in Article 19 of the Labor Contract Act, and therefore become invalid.
(4) Setting an “upper limit” on the term of a contract is a disadvantageous change of working conditions for workers, and also a violation of the “Termination of Employment Doctrine” in Article 19.
(5) The so-called “cooling period” referred to in Article 18, Paragraph 2, should be understood correctly. This term is used for calculating the total period of employment after the fact in types of jobs where employment and non-employment are repeated frequently in short cycles. It is not something used for splitting up a continuous contract term. It is never a tool to avoid conversion to an unlimited-term contract.
(6) Any abuse of “cooling period” deviating from the spirit of this law is unacceptable.
(7) Regarding contract renewals, regardless of what is written in the contract, if the contract is renewed even once, this renewal generates an expectation of renewal for the worker. In this case, any statement such as “this contract is not renewable” in the contract becomes invalid.
(8) Also, if the management gives any indication, by words or deeds, that renewal can be expected, this naturally generates an expectation of renewal for the worker.
(9) Such things as upper limits on the contract term and non-renew-ability of a contract are all a part of working conditions. Therefore, these all should be clearly indicated from the very start of recruitment, interviewing, employment, and contract renewal.
These comment are not directed towards a specific company, but a general warning to all companies.
The Case Of Shoin Gakuen: A Heinous Example Diametrically Opposed To These Labor Bureau Comments
As we have already reported, educational corporation Shoin Gakuen, located in Higashi Osaka City, is planning to dismiss their part-time teachers all at once. This violates the Labor Contract Act, and the General Union has been demanding that they abide by the law through collective bargaining, etc.
However, Shoin Gakuen calls the General Union an “outside union” (???) – despite the fact that we are legally recognized and have a branch there – and has never shown any intention to solve the problem through sincere negotiations.
Main Problems Pointed Out By The General Union In The Case Of Shoin Gakuen
1. The staff of Shoin Gakuen put pressure on part-time teachers, saying “[i]f you agree to resign (“cooling” period) for one of the 4 semesters of the 2016 and 2017 school years, we may consider employing you in the 2018 school year. If not, we will terminate your contracts at the end of the 2017 school year.”
2. The staff of Shoin Gakuen openly told part-time teachers that “there is a law stating that a worker who has worked longer than 5 years on limited-term contracts gets the right to change his/her contract to an unlimited-term one. However, the board of trustees of Shoin Gakuen has decided NOT to obey this law.“
3. The board of trustees of Shoin Gakuen decided to set a 5-year upper limit on part-time teacher contracts.
4. It is clearly written in the part-time teachers’ contracts that “the contract term is 1 year, and the contract is not renewable.” However, contract renewals have actually been common. This means that the deviation between the written contract and the reality has become commonplace, and therefore the status of the contract itself is unclear.
Comparison Of The Osaka Labor Bureau’s Comments With The Problems Of Shoin Gakuen
Comparing the Osaka Labor Bureau’s comment with the words and deeds of Shoin Gakuen, everyone can easily see how illegal and pernicious Shoin Gakuen’s attempt to evade unlimited contracts is.
Shoin Gakuen now has to make a choice of two options: to change its policy and abide by the law, accepting the recommendations of the General Union and the Osaka Labor Bureau, or to stick to the board of trustees’ decision to overtly disobey the law.
From Now On…
With only about six months left until unlimited-contract conversion starts, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has launched an “Unlimited-Term Conversion Rule Promotion Campaign” for September and October.
During this same period, the General Union will be negotiating with the central government. The “conversion” issue is of course among the main issues in the negotiation.
We will present concrete reports to government ministries (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) about various workplaces: some where the conversion is going smoothly, and others where the issue may escalate into a labor dispute due to the employer’s policy of avoiding the conversion.
Based on this, we will ask for a crackdown on illegal deeds and for strict enforcement of the law .
Again, the General Union asks corporations including Shoin Gakuen to abide by the law and to proceed smoothly and peacefully, following the spirit of the law, with steps for job security and the conversion to unlimited contracts for limited-term workers.
At the end of the day, this will be the best choice for corporations as well.