CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENT ON LABOR STANDARDS LAW BY PM SHINZO ABE




Mustafa AY – TDO – 18.07.2017 Japan has been witnessing tragic demises of white color labours stemming from overtime working hours. Increasing deaths under 30 creates a situation in which the ratio of youth draws opposite parallel with ratio of elderliness in Japan. The prospects of occurrence of such an opposite ratio put many politicians including in Shinzo Abe in discomfort. As a result of increasing threat, Shinzo Abe presented a statutory amendment on ‘Labor Standards Law’ with the aim of averting oncoming deaths in 2015. Despite 2 years elapsing on the submission, there has been no settlement concerning this drawback. However, according to the latest news, extraordinary Diet session is expected to assemble in August which leaves an impression about that the parliament would high likely reach a final decision. Before abovementioned parliamentary session, Shinzo Abe convened all the parties, whose interest lies in this amendment, to negotiate, and additionally to reach a consensus. The Dynamics of Japanese economy called by PM comprise of Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation), Japan Business Federation and Japanese Bureaucracy.

In Japan, the tragic deaths stemming from overtime working hours are still being experienced. Recently, the death of 24-years-old Matsuri Takahaski occupies the agenda of Japan and steers lots of Japanese citizens to consider the reform. In the aftermath of her death, many white color employees bring this question “she worked in Dentsu?” in mind. Dentsu is notoriously known as an advertising company with brutal and merciless working conditions. In the background of the company, there are many annoying facts that bothers many of Japanese even today. To give an example, in 1991, Dentsu was prosecuted by a victimized family whose son committed suicide upon his over exhaustion stemming from overtime working hours. As a result of the investigation executed by Labor Standards Inspection Bureau of Japan, Supreme Court found Dentsu guilty and flowingly condemned the corp. to pay 168 million ¥ (about 1.5 million $) worth compensation to the victim’s family. Even though Japanese government tried to avert such unfortunate situations through deterrent penalties, it seems to be insufficient for inhibiting the increasing deaths.

Labor Standards Inspection Bureau of Japan presented its reports about these sorts of deaths to the government at regular intervals. Besides presenting to Abe, these reports are compulsorily being submitted to the presence of main opposition party ‘Democrat Party’, Labour Union and Japan Trade Union Confederation and et al on behalf of employees.  In case of such an aggravating happenings in the country, Iron-Triangle’s meeting under the chairmanship of PM is automatically necessitated by the severity of situation itself. Iron-Triangle is an economic council formed by the partnership of prominent ‘Keiretzus’ (oligarchs like Mitsubishi Group and Toyota Group dominating the economy), Labour Union and Japanese Bureaucracy under the presidency of PM. The aim of this quasi-private council is to reach unanimity in the matters of economy. However, when all parties in the council, whose interests differentiate from each other, bind together, reaching consensus become challenging matter to overcome. However, the pressure put on the government by constituency results in the pressure of government of government on those parties. So, the government coerces all parties to settle on a deal. But there are influential parties that the government avoid to bother. For example, Rengo is the prominent party covering 6 million members. Therefore, such parties undermines dictatorial presidency of PM and make unanimity hard to achieve.

Abe’s role in persuading all parties to get a result in the economic council is very important. On the grounds that, it eliminated the possibility of opposition’s obstacle on ‘veto’ on the amendments proposed by the government. The reason why is that so is the fact that those oppositions are controlled by those business circles in the economic council. If the parties agrees upon the deal, that opposition seats disagree with the deal is nearly impossible. As well as this, Abe must achieve this challenging duty. In case of Abe’s failure in his effort to convince the parties, the opposition automatically veto the amendment, and then the government will be subject to the absolute failure in the next elections. This is an absolute result deriving from the pressure of the constituency on the government to find out a solution to problem.

When it comes to the contents of the statutory amendment, what conditions that proposal covers in? In Japan, working hours per week reached the level of 122 hours that is unbearable for the workers. Shinzo Abe, above the offers coming from Rikio Kozu (President of Rengo) and Nippon Keidanren (President of Japan Business Federation), render the proposal optional rather than stipulating the deal on one condition. In accordance with the alternates in the law proposal, white colors cannot entirely dispose of the present state they’ve already suffered from. The law proposal suggest that those;

  1. Employees can get annual leave of at least 104 days, and 2 weeks straight holiday so that employees can make health check-up. But, in case of choosing this option, employees carry on the same thepo as it was before. Besides, they would be subject to pay cuts.
  2. Employees can organize their working hours to all year. To have this option, they would be subject to cut on the annual leave. Through this option, they can get rid of overtime working hours. But, they would be subject to pay cuts.
  3. Employees can choose neither options mentioned up. So, they continue to work as do they before. But, as opposed to other options, they can get the payment without exposing to no cut, but health condition would be high likely deteriorated.

Abe administration’s statutory amendment does not sound fair in terms of its logic. Besides betterments in the working conditions observed in first two options, but with pay cuts, it makes all amendment irrational because of the third option. If the employees choose the third option, the status quo will be preserved which means all the strive of the government devoted to such cause is made in vain.