Labor chief blasts 100-hour OT limit as impossibly high at work reform panel

JIJI

Management and labor teams in Japan are locking horns over how much overtime employees should be allowed to work during busy periods as the government mulls a limit of 100 hours per month.

After attending a meeting of the government’s Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform on Wednesday, labor leader Rikio Kozu dismissed the 100-hour limit floated as “totally impossible.” He suggested lowering it sharply.

Business leaders agree that some sort of regulation on overtime is needed but insist that the government understand that companies must continue operations after such a cap is in place.

The government has proposed that overtime be capped at 720 hours a year per employee, or am average of 60 hours per month. At the same time, it proposed letting employees work up to 100 extra hours per month during busy periods on condition that the average is limited to 80 hours over two consecutive months.

The government came up with the number based on the legal criteria for approving posthumous workers’ compensation applications involving people who die from overwork. The threshold is 100 hours a month.

Kozu, president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), said the government should respect an existing management-labor agreement that restricts overtime per employee to 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year, when considering a specific limit.

To improve labor practices across all industries, Kozu called on the government not to exempt any industry from the new rules on overtime. He also said it is necessary to set a mandatory interval of hours between when one working day and begins another.

Keidanren chief Sadayuki Sakakibara said he finds the 100-hour proposal for busy periods “reasonable.”

While acknowledging the need to introduce regulations on overtime, Sakakibara argued that the government should create a system that allows companies to handle busy seasons or unexpected situations, such as product recalls. He also urged the government to be cautious on the “mandatory interval” issue.

Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is also positive about the introduction of an overtime cap but also asked the government to create a flexible system.