Business

Rengo chief Kozu to remain at helm of nation's largest labor organization

Kyodo

Rikio Kozu, head of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), the nation’s largest labor organization, will stay on for a second two-year term beginning in October, sources said Tuesday.

Executives of labor unions under the confederation proposed that the 61-year-old incumbent continue as president, they said.

The leadership personnel plan for Rengo, the umbrella organization representing about 6.8 million union members, is scheduled to be finalized in October at its regular convention following approval by its central executive committee in August, they added.

Rengo Secretary-General Naoto Omi, 63, will be named acting president and Yasunobu Aihara, the 57-year-old president of the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions, will fill the post to be vacated by Omi, the sources said.

Omi, the president of UA Zensen, which represents workers in a range of industries including in the food and chemical sectors, was initially a candidate to succeed Kozu, but his promotion was aborted after he triggered an outcry inside the union for supporting a controversial government plan to exempt skilled workers with high incomes from work-hour regulations, including overtime pay.

Under the so-called white-collar overtime exemption proposed by the government, workers would be paid based on performance, not hours worked. Critics argue the proposed system could weaken labor conditions in the country, which is notorious for long working hours.

Rengo decided last Thursday to withdraw its support for the white-collar overtime exemption. Kozu offered an apology for causing confusion within the union over the matter.

After graduating from university, Kozu joined Nippon Steel Corp., the predecessor of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., in 1979. He assumed Rengo’s top post in 2015 after heading the Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers’ Unions.