Legal change will make temp purgatory permanent for many Japanese workers

Eight years ago, a TV drama about temporary workers generated a great deal of excitement around Japan. In “Haken no Hinkaku” (“Dignity of a Temp”), model-actress-singer Ryoko Shinohara played Haruko Omae, a “super-temp” who masterfully tackled the myriad troubles that arose in her ¥3,000-an-hour job. Unshakable, aloof and playing by her own rules, she performed better than any of the regular employees, refused all overtime and off-the-clock socialization, and shunned flattery and fake smiles to boot.

Unfortunately, the drama did not reflect reality. In real life, critics said, such a temp worker (haken shain) would have been fired on the spot, and regardless of skill level, temp workers tend to be seen as outsiders and are treated worse than regular workers.

On Wednesday, recent revisions to the Worker Dispatch Law go into effect. There was chaotic debate in the Diet over this bill, just as there was with the security bills, but in the end the ruling coalition dealt with it in the same way as it has other unpopular measures: by pushing it through with their majority in both chambers.

Let’s look at the details of the changes.

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Tozen Vlog for May 18, 2014

Mazda temp-staff practice ruled illegal

Mazda temp-staff practice ruled illegal
Yamaguchi court: Displaced 13 should be regular employees

YAMAGUCHI – The Yamaguchi District Court ruled Wednesday that Mazda Motor Corp.’s temp-staff employment practice is illegal and recognized regular employee status for 13 former temp-staff workers displaced by the automaker.

The rare recognition that displaced temporary workers should be regular employees is expected to affect similar pending lawsuits. The court also ordered Mazda to pay wages that the 13 should have received as regular employees.

The temp-staff worker law requires companies to directly employ workers dispatched by temporary staffing agencies if the employees continue work at the firms for three consecutive years.

Under its temp-staff employment practice, Mazda directly employed temporary workers as “support employees” for just three months after their three consecutive years of service, later shifting their status back to temps.

The practice to effectively maintain workers as temporary staff for more than three years violated the temp-staff worker law, the court said.

The ruling came in a suit filed by 15 plaintiffs — some of whom worked as temporary staff at Mazda’s Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture for up to five years and seven months before being displaced during or after the outbreak of the global financial crisis in December 2008.

The court found 13 of the 15 plaintiffs as subject to the support employee system and recognized them as regular employees.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in April 2009, claiming that Mazda had been adjusting the hiring period to be less than three years by temporarily hiring temp-staff employees as regular employees for about three months under the “support employee” system.

The plaintiffs said the system allowed Mazda to “hire skilled temp workers for a long time but fire them whenever they wanted,” calling the act “loophole.”

Meanwhile, Mazda had claimed that temp workers had accepted to work as temp staff and “support employee” positions out of their own volition.

“Mazda had not intended it, and therefore, it does not violate the law,” Mazda’s lawyers said in court.

Mazda called the decision regrettable, adding that it will consider what to do after pouring over the content of the ruling.

In June 2009, the Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectural labor bureaus recommended that Mazda correct the “support employee” system.

Shinji Eto, 48, one of the plaintiffs who had been displaced by Mazda, told the court last April that he just wanted to live a normal life, being paid for his work and occasionally being able to go out for drinks with friends.

“I want to say with pride that producing cars at Mazda is my job,” Eto said. “I just want to live a normal life.”

Bill passed to lift temp workers’ lot but no manufacturer dispatch ban

The Diet passed a bill Wednesday to amend the Workers Dispatch Law, aiming to improve the working conditions of temporary employees.

The revision forbids dispatch agencies from contracting temporary workers for 30 days or less. Also, employers will be urged to give temp workers the same pay as regular employees if they’re doing the same work.

But the revision will not fully protect nonregular workers. The Democratic Party of Japan’s plan to ban temporary workers from being dispatched to the manufacturing sector was scrapped under pressure from the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The DPJ submitted a bill in April 2010 that included a ban on sending nonregular workers to factories after thousands of temps were laid off and left homeless when the slump hit in 2008.

The ban was featured in the party’s platform for the 2009 election.

The dispatch law, which regulates the treatment of temporary workers, was loosened to employers’ advantage when the LDP was still in power.

In 1999, it was revised to allow temporary workers to work in almost all industries except for manufacturing and health care. In 2003, it was amended to let temps work in the manufacturing industry.

These changes allowed manufacturers to lay off temp workers easily when the global financial crunch hit in 2008, and many became jobless and homeless, especially those who had been provided with company housing.

Overwork death recognized for worker at Fukushima plant

The death last May of a man who had engaged in work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the nuclear crisis erupted there in March was recognized Friday as caused by overwork, according to a lawyer representing the man’s bereaved family.

A local labor standards inspection office in Yokohama, acting on a workers’ compensation claim by the family of [a subcontract worker dispatched by a construction firm in Shizuoka Prefecture], who died of a heart attack at age 60, determined that his cardiac infarction was caused by excessive physical and mental burdens arising from working overnight wearing protective gear and mask, lawyer Akio Ohashi said.

There have been 35 cases of workers’ compensation claims in connection with the nuclear disaster, and three of them involve a worker’s death. Aside from [that worker’s] case, the two others involved workers who died due to tsunami waves on the day of the disaster.

Falsified labor deals rampant at Japan’s nuke plants, says suspect

A power plant construction and maintenance firm has falsified worker contracts for temporary labor at nuclear plants across Japan for years, according to statements by one of the company’s employees charged with involvement in the fraudulent agreements.

Hideo Ichise, 58, and two other people were indicted on Feb. 2 for the dispatch of a worker to the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture under a false contract, a violation of the Employment Security Law. Ichise’s employer Taihei Dengyo Kaisha Ltd. — where he now serves as business manager after a stint as the firm’s Oi operations chief — along with Fukui Prefecture-based plumbing company Takada Kiko were also charged.

Investigators have discovered a dossier on falsified worker contracts at more than 30 Taihei Dengyo branches, further suggesting the firm has been involved in illicit labor deals involving nuclear power plants across the country.

Police have furthermore discovered cases of various personnel agencies siphoning off the wages of temporary workers at nuclear plants, while involvement of the Kitakyushu-based crime syndicate Kudo-kai has also been uncovered.

Taihei Dengyo’s operating officer was also quoted as telling police, “Our company alone cannot hire many workers, so we (falsified labor contracts) knowing it was illegal.”

[One worker in Saga Prefecture] was dispatched to a construction company by a temp agent called simply “boss.” Although there was ostensibly a contract with the construction company and the man worked directly under a construction company employee, “boss” apparently took 5,000 yen out of his 13,000-yen daily wage.

“There were gangsters among those bosses, and sometimes two bosses raked off my wages,” the Saga man recalls.

A temporary personnel agency operator says, “Parent companies send us requests for a certain number of workers, and we submit a list of people who then go and work under those parent companies at nuclear power plants. We give the workers their wages after deducting our share.” Another agent told the Mainichi, “There are times when gangsters are involved in recruiting workers. It is easy for us to hire them because they save us the trouble.”

3 nabbed over fake contract for nuclear repair work in Fukui

Police have arrested three people for allegedly dispatching a worker to the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture under a falsified contract, sparking a police probe into the yakuza’s possible involvement in nuclear-related jobs, investigative sources say.

The Fukuoka and Fukui prefectural police forces on Jan. 12 announced the arrests of Hideo Ichise, 58, of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, Yoshimi Tomita, 59, of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, and Kanae Ikegami, 36, of Kitakyushu’s Wakamatsu Ward, on suspicion of violating the Employment Security Law.

Police suspect Soshin Kogyo dispatched workers to nuclear power facilities, thereby providing the Kudo-kai [a Kitakyushu-based crime syndicate] with a source of funds, according to investigative sources. The case has sparked a rare police investigation into the alleged involvement of yakuza in nuclear-related employment in Japan.

According to police investigators, the three were implicated in an unlawful contract scheme in which a male employee of Soshin Kogyo was dispatched to Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant and forced to engage in repair work under the supervision of Taihei Dengyo from early March to late September in 2010. The three have admitted to the allegations, the sources say.

Fukuoka police and others with knowledge of the case say the fake contract was set up through deals between Soshin Kogyo and Takada Kiko, and between Takada Kiko and Taihei Dengyo. The Fukuoka and Fukui police forces believe the Soshin Kogyo employee served as a temporary worker in violation of the law, and suspect he may be just one of several temporary staffers sent to nuclear power facilities under bogus contract deals, investigative sources say.

Various temporary agencies have been suspected of siphoning off workers’ wages and crime syndicates are suspected of playing a part in dispatching such temporary workers.

All employees in Japan are entitled to paid leave, period

Reader A is employed by an agency and has been dispatched to a food processing company. The agency explained to A that she was not entitled to paid leave. However, other people directly employed by the food processing company enjoy 10 to 15 days paid holiday, and A has recently learned that those dispatched by other agencies to the same company also get paid leave.

In justifying the decision not to grant A paid leave, the agency said that A’s work schedule is irregular depending on the company calendar. However, A says she is working the night shift eight hours a day, 40 hours a week at least.

A, I assume that you have been dispatched legally, that is, based on the Act for Securing the Proper Operation of Worker Dispatching Undertakings and Improved Working Conditions for Dispatched Workers. Under this act, “worker dispatching” is defined as “causing a worker(s) employed by one person so as to be engaged in work for another person under the instruction of the latter, while maintaining his/her employment relationship with the former, but excluding cases where the former agrees with the latter that such worker(s) shall be employed by the latter” (Article 2). If this is the case, you have an employment relationship not with the company where you are dispatched (hakensaki) but with the agency that dispatches you (hakenmoto).

Paid leave is a right all employees are entitled to. A worker who has been employed continuously for six months from the day they were hired and has reported for work on at least 80 percent of their assigned workdays must be granted annual paid leave, according to Article 39 of the Labor Standards Act.

If you fulfill the conditions for paid leave, you have a legal right to demand it from your agency. If the agency still refuses, you should report them to the relevant labor standards bureau, who will conduct an investigation and either suggest or request the agency grant you paid leave if a violation is found.

Joytalk ALTs Unionized

Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union and its Tozen ALTs Branch recently declared the existence of its Joytalk Shop to management and submitted a slate of 28 collective bargaining demands.


Declaration of New Members, Request for Collective Bargaining

拝啓 貴社におかれましては、益々ご繁栄のこととお喜び申し上げます。

We hope your business is doing well.


We hereby inform you that some of your employees have joined Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union (hereafter, “union,”) and Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union Tozen ALTs (hereafter, “local”). From this day forth, your company is obligated to negotiate with the union and local regarding union members’ employment, working conditions and all items related to working conditions.


Our union and local will negotiate in good faith in order to establish a positive labor-management relationship. Therefore, we ask that you promptly agree to collective bargaining with the union and local without committing any unfair labor practices. We also add that refusing collective bargaining is an unfair labor practice in violation of Article 7 of Trade Union Law.


We ask for collective bargaining regarding the demands listed below at the below date, time and venue.


We understand that it is impossible to discuss all 28 demands at the first collective bargaining session. We would like to negotiate these demands with you carefully and thoroughly. Union members hope to build and maintain a positive relationship with management based on long-term job security.

3.要求事項 Demands

安定した雇用について   On job security…

1. Management eliminate temporary employment status for all union members, recognizing open-ended employment with no deterioration in working conditions in order to give members job security.


事前協議について  On prior consultation …

2. Management inform the local and union well in advance of any changes to working conditions, management, terms of employment or shugyo kisoku work rules. Management negotiate and obtain agreement with union and local before implementing any such changes.


3. Management inform, negotiate with and obtain agreement from union and local before any transfers, disciplinary measures or dismissal (including all forms of employment severance against the wishes of the employee) of any union member.


4. Management inform and make a mutual arrangement with local members before visiting schools to observe classes etc. and that any such visit shall have a minimum of one month’s advance notice.


5. Management obtain consent from any union member before scheduling work on weekends.


透明性について  On transparency …

6. Management provide union and local with Japanese language and English language versions of their shugyo kisoku official work rules.


7. Management immediately disclose and explain each year’s financial documents, including profit-loss statement and balance sheet.


8. Management immediately give to the union and local a copy of the contract between company and all school boards where members work.


9. Management explain in writing to the union and local the terms of the contract (“haken” or “gyomu itaku”) for each member, and how the type of contract affects the member’s work.


金銭要求 Financial Demands

10. Management pay full actual transportation costs to all members.


11. Management increase the salary of union members to ¥290,000 per month.


12. Management count the training days forced upon members during July as additional working days to be paid at an additional ¥15,000 per day and refund full actual transportation costs.


13. Management pay a full salary for August 2011


14. Management refrain from deducting any wages from any member who participates in collective bargaining during work hours.


15. Management refund all costs for medical checks required of union members.


他の要求事項 Other Demands

18. Management give 10 days paid annual leave to union members who have worked for six months (12 after 18 months, etc. according to Labor Standards Law) to be used at their own discretion, and not as management dictates.


19. A substitute ALT is not sent to a school if there are no lessons.


20. Management use teacher evaluations only to help teachers further improve their performance and not let evaluations affect pay. All evaluations submitted by the school to the company are shown to the union in their original form.


21. Management change our payday from the 25th of the month to the 15th of every month, to coincide with monthly payments such as rent and utilities.


22. Management assign teachers with experience to run training sessions.


23. Management arrange for all union members to have lockers at their workplaces (schools).


24. Management explain about their current shakai hoken deductions


労使の信頼関係維持について  Maintaining Relationship of Trust between Management and Union

25. Management comply with all articles of all labor laws, particularly Trade Union Law, and refrain from discriminating against or harassing any union member.


26. Management permit a union representative be present at all members’ meetings with management.


27. Management permit the union and local to conduct a 30-minutes union orientation, including passing out information, at all training sessions. Management inform the union at least four weeks in advance of the date, time and venue for all such training sessions.


28. Management sign a labor-management agreement with the union and local on the above demands.



Calm at J. Village belies the danger

Crisis worker woes, shortage another story

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Friday for the first time let reporters into the base camp for thousands of workers striving every day to fix the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, showing off new dining facilities, a dormitory for single workers and the latest radioactivity monitors to check vehicles and clothing.

What wasn’t readily apparent, however, is the number of temporary dispatch workers without job or health insurance, and who face the ax once their radiation exposure tops out, according to a municipal assembly member from a nearby city.

But despite significant improvements in services and facilities at J. Village [a former soccer training complex now being used by Tepco], serious problems have remained for workers at Fukushima No. 1, insiders say.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a member of the Iwaki Municipal Assembly, has interviewed about 20 nuclear plant workers and some have told him conditions were extremely bad. Some even claimed they only had a verbal contract for the job.

Many were sent by subcontractor dispatch companies that do not provide job or health insurance, which is illegal, Watanabe said.

The workers are often abandoned by personnel companies once their cumulative radiation exposure exceeds the legal limits, Watanabe said.

“For example, one worker kept working at the Fukushima No. 1 plant for more than 10 years. Even after the accident, he kept working and he was fired after his dose exceeded 40 millisieverts,” Watanabe said. “He had once falsified his exposure records so he would not lose his job.”