Temps again get short end?

Labor bill loopholes may let manufacturers still have ‘disposable’ ranks

The Hatoyama administration is working on an amendment to the job dispatch law in an effort to provide greater security to temporary workers hit by the economic slump.

But observers worry that the Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition is backing away from a campaign promise to drastically overhaul the law. This threatens to leave nonregular workers out in the cold.

The dispatch law, which regulates employer use of temporary workers, was loosened in recent years under Liberal Democratic Party-led administrations. Until 1999, only a few job categories, including clerical and translation work, could be filled by temps. That year, the law was revised to open up nearly all industries other than manufacturing and health care to temporary workers. Then in 2004, the law was amended to allow temps to work at manufacturers.

These changes allowed manufacturing firms to replace regular workers covered by costly job protections and welfare benefits with cheaper, and discardable, temps, who drew their pay from temp agencies.

When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, many temp workers were suddenly jobless, and, in many cases, homeless, especially those who had been provided company housing.

Masamichi Kondo, an Upper House member of the SDP who is working on the amendment, said Wednesday that negotiations with Ritsuo Hosokawa, senior vice labor minister and a DPJ member, have not gone smoothly.

“(The DPJ) doesn’t seem to want to agree on completely banning the dispatch (of temps) to the manufacturing industry because it is being pressured by business leaders,” Kondo said.

Kondo wants the law enacted as soon as possible. The report calls for the ban on temps at manufacturers to take effect within three years.

“We will stand firm in order to change the dispatch law, as that was the promise we made before the election and citizens supported us,” he said, adding the coalition plans to submit a revised bill on the dispatch law to the current Diet session in March.