Election puts overtime-pay exclusion on hold

Wary of an upcoming election, the ruling bloc is backing off on a highly contentious bill that would exclude certain white-collar workers from overtime pay.

But debate over the issue, which unions fiercely oppose, will resurface because the government’s retreat is widely believed a mere postponement until after the July Upper House election.

Certain white-collar workers would be excluded from legal work-hour restrictions under the Labor Standards Law, which limits work hours to eight hours a day and 40 hours a week and obliges employers to pay for overtime.

The government says the proposed system is modeled after one in the United States with the same name.

Unions and opposition parties branded the proposal the “elimination of overtime pay bill,” provoking fear among salaried workers that they would receive no extra pay even if they have to continue working long hours. This worried lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito whose eyes are on the summer Upper House election.

Unions are against the system itself because changes to the hour limitations would mean abolishing the most basic protection for employees.

They argue that without changing Japan’s notorious penchant for requiring long work hours, the new system would only make matters worse and workers would get less pay.