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Rengo seeks to amend bill axing white-collar overtime

Kyodo

The country’s largest labor union body urged authorities Thursday to add tougher overwork prevention measures when the government moves forward with plans to introduce a merit-based pay system for highly skilled jobs.

Based on the request by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, known as Rengo, the government is likely to revise a deadlocked bill it has submitted to the Diet with the aim of introducing the so-called white-collar overtime exemption system.

The government insists that the system will enable certain highly skilled employees to work more flexibly. But opposition parties suggest that plan would take away overtime pay while encouraging overwork from staff who will become exempt from work-hour regulations.

Deliberation on the bill to amend the Labor Standards Law has been put on hold for more than two years amid resistance from opposition parties. Families who lost loved ones due to overwork have also criticized the system.

Rengo, an umbrella organization for labor unions, has been against putting the system in place from the beginning. But asking for revisions to the bill has been seen by some members as giving a de facto green light for government efforts to push for passage of the bill, albeit with some changes.

The rift was clear as the Japan Community Union Federation, which belongs to Rengo, made a rare protest to Rengo’s headquarters, saying in a statement that asking for revision of the bill is not what has been pursued until now.

According to the statement, Rengo officials said in a meeting Tuesday that the organization will ask the government to revise parts of the bill but maintained it is not a policy change.

One of the officials also emphasized the need to demand revision of the bill, else it is likely to be passed in its current form given the Diet majority held by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito party, according to the statement.

Under the bill, certain highly skilled workers with an annual income of at least ¥10.75 million ($95,000) would be paid based on results and without overtime pay. The government has included some steps to ensure workers’ health, but Rengo has called for tougher measures.