ITUC OnLine – February 18, 2009

Japan: Public Workers’ Rights Still Denied

Brussels, 18 February 2009 (ITUC OnLine):  Violations of trade union rights and discrimination remain to be addressed in Japan, according to an ITUC report on core labour standards.

The report, which coincides with the Trade Policy Review of Japan at the WTO on 18 and 20 February, notes that many workers continue to be restricted in their right to organize, particularly public sector employees and civil servants. Restrictions also exist with regard to their right to collective bargaining, and public sector workers do not have the right to strike, whereas private sector workers employed in so-called essential services have to give a ten-day advance notice.

In this regard, the report calls upon the government to bring legislation in line with ILO Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 and eliminate restrictions on the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike for public sector workers.

The report also notes that organising has become increasingly difficult due to the growing number of precarious non-regular workers, with serious implications also for working conditions and health and safety.

Collective bargaining efforts by unions have also been undermined by the growing number of holding companies and investment fund companies, where management is not legally considered as the employer.

Furthermore, as indicated in the report, training and internship programmes for unskilled foreign workers have been abused by employers, and many workers have ended up in sweatshops where they are forced to work for long hours, under dangerous conditions and below minimum wages.

The report also refers to discrimination in employment and remuneration, which is still very much prevalent in Japan. Despite the laws for equal treatment, indirect discrimination against women remains a serious problem. In particular the “dual career ladder” system, which encourages women towards the general or clerical track, and the “three-tier employment pattern”, which divides the available posts in permanent managerial posts, expert posts and non-permanent posts, have contributed to a persisting discrimination in employment and remuneration.

Click here to see the full report.