The labor ministry last month asked an advisory body to discuss possible revisions to the law governing the dispatch of temporary contract workers. The Hatoyama administration hopes to improve the stability of dispatch workers’ employment situation, and plans to send a bill containing revisions to the Diet in March.
According to a ministry draft of the revision bill, the current temp system, which sees registered workers go without pay when there is no work to occupy them, will be banned in principle. Exceptions will be made for 26 fields of work that require specialized skills, such as interpreting. The draft proposes that the ban be phased in over a period of up to five years.
The draft also calls for dispatch on assignments lasting two months or less to be prohibited in principle, and for temp agencies to be obliged to make their commission margins public.
Dispatch of workers to manufacturing firms will also be banned in principle. Again, there will be a phasing-in period of up to three years before the ban is enforced. However, dispatch of registered workers to manufacturing firms will still be allowed if the workers receive pay continuously for more than one year, even if there is no actual work available.
Neither management nor labor is satisfied with the terms of the draft. The management side says the revisions will make it hard for small firms to find workers when their operations experience sudden or short-term booms. The labor side says that the revisions will not prevent workers being dispatched to manufacturing firms on short-term, renewable contracts. Labor also questions why unskilled work such as filing and office machine operation is covered in the 26 “specialized” fields.
The advisory body is faced with a difficult task. Its main onjective should be to prevent a situation in which dispatched workers can be easily and suddenly laid off in times ofeconomic downturn. Legislation aside, management should realize that continuing to rely heavily on dispatch workers inhibits the accumulation of skills and know-how among staff, thus weakening a firm’s ability to compete in the long term.
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