National / Politics

Tokyo considers extending Diet session until late June or early July to pass labor and casino bills

Kyodo

The government and the ruling bloc are considering extending the current Diet session to the end of June or early July to secure the passage of a bill on labor reform and another on casinos, lawmakers from the ruling parties said Tuesday.

They also decided to delay until Thursday a Lower House vote on the labor reform bill, which is aimed at addressing Japan’s chronic overwork problem. In doing so, they yielded to a demand from opposition parties for more deliberations on the proposed legislation, which is viewed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the most important agenda item in the ongoing session through June 20. The opposition camp strongly objects to one component of the bill, saying it would exacerbate the country’s overwork problem.

In the 150-day parliamentary term, the government also seeks to pass another bill, which will pave the way for casinos to be opened in Japan in the hope of attracting more overseas visitors and boosting regional economies. But opposition parties are opposed to the move as they are concerned about gambling addiction and gambling-related anti-social behavior.

The government and ruling bloc have been mired in political scandals involving Abe, Cabinet ministers and bureaucrats, which have caused opposition parties to boycott Diet sessions, delaying proceedings.

“We are short of deliberation time (for important bills). We cannot help but extend the Diet term,” a senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said.

“It is time to think about how long the Diet session should be extended,” said a high-ranking lawmaker of Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner.

On the labor reform bill, the ruling parties had planned for it to clear the Lower House on Tuesday afternoon following its passage Friday through the body’s Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare.

The opposition parties, however, criticized the ruling bloc for “ramming through” the bill as Shuichi Takatori, an LDP member who chaired the panel, cut the question time for an opposition lawmaker so the committee could take a vote.

The bill consists of three pillars: setting a legal cap on overtime work, ensuring equal treatment for regular and nonregular workers, and exempting skilled professional workers with high wages from working-hour regulations.

Although the ruling camp claims the last item, known as the white collar overtime exemption and sought by business lobbies, would enable “flexible work styles,” opposition parties and labor unions have lambasted it as a “zero overtime pay” scheme that could lead to an increase in karōshi (death from overwork).

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