On November 20, 2020, at the Lower House Diet Members’ #2 Office Building, a group of education workers’ unions under the umbrella of Zenrokyo (including the General Union, along with the Sapporo General Union), participated in negotiation and exchange of opinions with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor (MHWL), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and Interior Ministry.
The agenda items for this year’s negotiation are listed below, with the relevant ministry for each.
1. Regarding COVID-19 experience so far, current situation, and from now on: MHWL
2. ALTs’ current situation and future: MEXT
3. Fiscal-yearly appointees: Interior Ministry
4. Shakai Hoken (health and pension insurance) enrollment conditions: MHWL
5. Related to switching to unlimited-term contracts: “10-year exception”, setting of contract limits: MEXT
In order to have discuss these issues as deeply as possible at this year’s negotiations, we submitted our questions and demands in writing at an early stage than last year.
After receiving written answers to these, we deliberated on these answers among the relevant unions, and were prepared in advance to engage in negotiation on the basis of these answers.
The demands and questions, along with their answers, are here:
Item 1: “Regarding COVID-19 Experience So Far, Current Situation, And From Now On”
On this topic, at first, there was confirmation of the vital role played, in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, by kyugyo teate (allowance for absence) based on Article 26 of the Labor Standards Law, and by the employment adjustment subsidy special measures.
In addition, in addition to hearing an explanation from the MHWL the intent of the newly created “off-work support fund” (kyugyo shien kin), it was also reported that there had been some confusion between this and the kyugyo teate based on Labor Standards Law Article 26.
It was furthermore confirmed that the calculation of average pay set forth in Article 12 of that law has become outdated, and that this has become a problem for non-regular and short-hours workers.
Item 2: “ALTs’ Current Situation And Future”
Here, since outsourcing contracts (independent contracting) for ALTs are still widely in existence despite the efforts of the MEXT, issues were raised about the details of MEXT guidance.
The Ministry promised to provide further information regarding this at a later date.
After this, specifics of ALTs’ current situations in each area were reported.
Regarding rectification of these, the explanation was given that, although ALTs exist all over the country, there is no official definition of what an ALT is.
Therefore the Ministry cannot intervene intrusively in the problems faced by ALTs in each place.
At the same time, it was confirmed that ways of solving these problems must be sought.
Item 3: “Fiscal-yearly Appointees”
Discussion centered on the situation in various places where “a bonus started to be paid, but in return there were big cuts in the monthly pay”.
The Interior Ministry declared that “[t]he facts as specifically reported and pointed out are exactly the sort which our Ministry has noted as being inappropriate, and we would like to strengthen our guidance from now on”.
Additionally, the Ministry stated that “if there is a problem, we would like you to bring it to the Personnel Commission or the Equity Commission of the particular local government; you may also bring questions for consultation directly to this Ministry”.
They also reported that “[f]or next year, just as for this year, any increase in local government expense to cover the payment of bonuses, etc., occasioned by the start of this system will be reimbursed by the national government”.
Item 4: “Shakai Hoken Enrollment Conditions”
Here there was discussion on the matter of “20 hours or more of work a week” condition for enrollment in Employees’ Health and Pension Insurance, and on adding up total hours from multiple workplaces.
It was reported by the MHWL that, with an increasing number of non-regular and short-hours workers having multiple employers, they understand that the need for this is growing.
However, since there is also a need to consider the increased burden this would put on employers, this is where the main cause of difficulty lies.
Furthermore, it was also promised that information would be provided concerning the upper-house Welfare and Labor Committee’s May 28, 2020, supplementary resolution on this issue.
Item 5: “Related To Switching To Unlimited-term Contracts: “10-year Exception”, Setting Of Contract Limits”
Concerning the “10-year exception”, the MEXT expressed once again their approval of the unions’ understanding toward the relevant laws and notices.
Furthermore, with the proviso that the Labor Contract Act is part of civil law, and therefore final judgement is up to the courts, it was confirmed that, as long as the matter is related to laws under MEX jurisdiction, such as the application of the Ninki-ho (Term of Appointment Law) itself to part-time lecturers, the length of the term, etc., information is provided directly to the Ministry, the Ministry will state its position on such cases at any time.
In regard to the setting of upper limits on the number of years of contract renewals, it was confirmed that “Upper limits set in order to de facto deprive limited-term workers of their right to switch to an unlimited contract cannot be accepted unconditionally”.
The above is a summary of this year’s negotiations and exchange of opinions.
The physical meeting together in one place is now over, but the exchange of information and discussion will go on continuously in other forms.