Nissan to phase out temp worker positions in favor of contract jobs

Nissan Motor Co. said it plans to phase out clerical positions filled by temporary workers and replace them with contract positions beginning in October.

The automaker apparently made the decision after it was instructed by the Tokyo Labor Bureau to improve its employment practices in accordance with the Worker Dispatching Law.

Currently, there are around 1.3 million people engaged in clerical work as temporary staff in Japan, and the unfair treatment of these workers often provokes controversy nationwide. The government will debate a bill to revise the worker dispatch law during the extraordinary Diet session this autumn, and the move by one of the nation’s leading car manufacturers is likely to affect other companies.

According to the automaker’s public relations department, currently some 700 to 800 individuals are working at Nissan as clerical staff on a temporary basis. Nissan has decided to stop accepting more temporary workers, who are usually dispatched by staffing agencies. Instead, the car maker has already started recruiting new contract employees. The contract period for the direct employment will not exceed two years and 11 months, as it often becomes difficult for an employer to terminate the contract unilaterally after three years.

Nissan started increasing the number of temporary staff from the mid-2000s. However, it came under fire for firing thousands of dispatched workers in manufacturing and administrative divisions following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the autumn of 2008.

In May last year, the company was instructed by the labor bureau to improve its employment practices after it hired temporary workers offering false working conditions. In an attempt to use dispatched workers beyond the legally permitted contract terms for temporary staff employed as general labor, Nissan told these workers that they would be assigned specialized jobs not covered by the term limits.

According to the source close to the problem, the company has tightened controls over temporary workers after it attracted the attention of the labor authority.

“We observe the laws; however, certain practices can be regarded unlawful in some cases. It’s difficult to know how we should understand this gray area,” a company spokesperson commented.

Meanwhile, Nissan has yet to explain how it will treat those who are already working in temporary positions at the company. There are mounting concerns that the move merely means another discharge of temporary workers.

Lawyer and labor issue expert Ichiro Natsume pointed out: “Companies had taken advantage of temporary workers, for whom they did not need to assume any responsibilities or obligations. However, due to stricter regulations, they apparently have lost interest in the hiring method. A revision to the Worker Dispatching Law will encourage more companies to follow Nissan’s lead.”