Comments on the Passing of the "Bill to Revise Part of the Labour Standards Law" at the Lower House

June 4, 2003

Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO)
General Secretary Tadayoshi Kusano

  1. Today at the House of Representative's Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee, a "bill to revise a part of the Labor Standards Law" was passed by majority vote of the three ruling parties, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Party, after revision to part of it. Included in the bill is the following: [1] rules regarding dismissals were specifically written into the law. [2] extension of the upper limits of fixed-term labor contract term agreements. [3] relaxation of conditions for discretionary work system such as expanding workplaces where the system is allowed.

  2. Especially with regard to the rules for dismissal, the bill submitted by the government deviates from the 'doctrine of abuse of rights of dismissal.' It could allow management to freely dismiss workers and as well as the possibility of putting the burden of proof on labor during lawsuits. Also, the bill included extensions of fixed-periods of labor, which may lead to an increase in unstable employment and the relaxation of conditions for discretionary work systems, which may cover up unpaid overtime.

  3. RENGO has proceeded with activities with the strong conviction that unless radical revisions wipe out all doubts, RENGO will push to scrap the bill. RENGO conducted the following activities: demand activities to both the ruling and opposition parties; compilation of resolutions at workplaces; delivery of resolutions at local assemblies; demand activities to legislators; TV commercials; submission of opinion statements by a labor committee member representative on April 30 to the Labor Condition Subcommittee pointing out that the bill should reflect the purpose of the proposition; Diet actions namely sit-in at the Diet, committee observations, rallies in front of the Diet visitor's area, diet petition demonstrations; 5.29 Central Pep Rally against Changes Negatively Impacting Labour Legislation on May 29.

  4. Consequently, due to the efforts of the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties, the phrase "employers can dismiss employees" for the rules of dismissal in the original bill was eliminated. We succeeded in radically modifying the use of "dismissal, when lacking objective and logical reason and unjustifiable based upon social convention, would be invalidated for abuse of the right of dismissal."

  5. Also, for fixed-term labour contracts, we succeeded in including in a supplementary provision that workers have the freedom to quit their jobs after one-year has passed from the contract start date. These achievements could not have been brought about except through action both in and out at the Diet at crucial moments. We greatly appreciate the contents of the modifications as well as the efforts made by opposition party legislators and other people involved.

  6. However taken collectively, the bill still retains numerous problems including the expansion of upper limits of term agreements in fixed-term contracts and relaxation of procedure requirements for discretionary work system. RENGO will work together with the political parties it has cooperative relationships with to seek resolutions to the remaining issues such as fixed-term labour and discretionary work. It will also work to develop powerful activities in and out of the Diet in close collaboration with each affiliated organization at the House of Councilors in the future.