12 Feb 2018 Ferado

JAPAN: Job security for irregular workers

A revision to the labor contract law that took effect in 2013 was intended to stabilize the employment of irregular employees by requiring companies to convert workers on fixed-term contracts who have worked for the same employers for at least five years from when the law took effect into permanent employees if they so wish. In April five years will have passed since the law’s implementation and cases are being reported of workers with irregular statuses being denied renewal of their contracts before they become eligible to apply for conversion to permanent status.

Businesses should stop such practices, which clearly run counter to the purpose of the revision, and instead regard full implementation of the legislation as an opportunity to reassess their employment policy, including improving the conditions of irregular workers, which should in turn benefit the employers from the viewpoint of securing manpower amid the tightening labor market.
The number of people with an irregular job status, such as part-timers and temporary workers — who are easier to hire and fire than full-time regular company employees — have increased since the 1990s and today account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s workforce. The number of workers on fixed-term contracts has reached some 15 million, of whom roughly 4.5 million are estimated to have worked with the same employers for more than five years — an indication that despite their temporary job status, many employers rely on them as an indispensable source of long-term manpower.

Once they have worked for the same employers for five years by renewing their contracts after the revised law took effect in April 2013, they can apply to the employers to switch their status to permanent contracts so they can work until mandatory retirement age, just like the companies’ regular full-time employees. If they do, the employers cannot turn down their request — although the revised law does not oblige the employers to raise their wages or put their conditions on par with those of regular full-time employees.

Companies that have used fixed-term workers as an “adjustment valve” in employment — who could be laid off when their business goes bad — are reportedly concerned that the new rule could add to their long-term manpower costs. Although the revision to the labor contract law was intended to increase job security for workers on irregular contracts, worries have been expressed that the rule might in fact destabilize their jobs if their employers deny them renewal of their contracts before the workers’ earn the right to seek a conversion to the permanent status. Complaints that have been filed with labor authorities as well as consultations made with labor unions in growing numbers in recent months indicate that such a concern has not been unwarranted.

Employers should realize that improving the conditions of irregular workers on their payroll will work to their own benefit — increased security for such workers should boost their morale and productivity. That should contribute to securing needed manpower amid the growing labor shortage, which is increasingly becoming a problem for Japanese firms. As the economy continues to grow and the ranks of people in the working-age population decline, the labor market is the tightest it has been since the 1970s, with the ratio of job openings to job seekers in December reaching 1.59 on a national average. Many companies are already beginning to convert irregular workers to regular employees and offer them better conditions in a bid to retain the manpower they need. Full implementation of the new rule under the revised labor contract law should encourage more firms to take such a step, not the other way around.

A survey taken last year by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) found that more than 80 percent of workers on fixed-term contracts polled were not aware of the specifics of the new rule. It should be made known to the workers that conversion to permanent contracts is not automatic, and they have to apply to their employers to obtain it. The government should step up efforts to inform the public of the new rule as its full-scale implementation draws near. In the same survey, 11 percent of the respondents said that since the revised law took effect, their employers have set an upper limit on the duration of their contract or the number of times the contract can be renewed — an apparent attempt to circumvent to the rule — and 6 percent said they had been denied renewal of their contract. Such practices run counter to the purpose of the revised law and should be stopped..

12 Feb 2018 Ferado

Trade Unions and Workers roundtable (Malaysia)

While representing the large majority of city dwellers and urban communities, city workers –formal or informal, young, women, or migrant – are often invisible and underpaid, working and living in precarious conditions. They build and operate our cities, bringing them to life, providing the essential services urban and local communities need. City workers need decent working conditions, adequate resources and staffing levels, and appropriate health and safety equipment, systems and training to perform their jobs correctly. Instead, the conditions of workers that build and maintain our cities leave much to be desired.

The violation of basic workers’ and trade unions’ rights, precarious employment, poverty wages, the lack of training and safety equipment, as well as the privatization of essential public services, austerity measures and tax avoidance dramatically undermine our cities’ inclusiveness and sustainability. Many operate under extremely difficult conditions: public emergency, building and construction, health and utility as well as migrant workers often lose their lives or get permanently impaired on the job because of such conditions.

It is crucial that urban communities’ stakeholders, mayors, local and central government officials and elected representatives, as well UN Habitat ensure that workers’ and trade union rights are not only non-negotiable human rights, but also preconditions to achieve the NUA’s transformative commitments and the SDGs. Workers and their trade unions are key institutional actors in shaping social, economic and urban policy on an equal footing with social partners local authorities and business, as per the ILO’s tripartite approach.

Guiding questions:

How are trade unions, workers, mayors and civil society allies implementing the NUA’s transformative commitments to making cities and local communities more equitable and inclusive?
What are the challenges of public emergency service workers in dealing with the consequences of climate change in cities?
How can decent housing be ensured for construction workers, who build cities and are yet often at the edge of urban centers?
What is the role of accessible universal, gender and youth responsive-public services in securing urban gender equality?
How can we design cities and urban institutions so migrant workers have a greater capacity to exercise their rights?
How can decent work be achieved in municipal waste management services and foster an inclusive urban circular economy?

12 Feb 2018 Ferado

Unions up in arms for not inviting INTUC in labour conference

New Delhi, Feb 12 As many as 10 central trade unions have lodged strong protest over not inviting Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) in the 47th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) on February 26-27.

They described the move as “discriminatory” and “undermining the spirit of tripartism.”

A letter to Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar by the unions said: “Your Ministry had invited nomination to the 47th ILC to be held on February 26-27. We have noted that INTUC, the second biggest central trade union in the country as per the official verification of your ministry, has not been extended invitation for the ILC, the highest tripartite forum of the country.”

The letter said the ministry has taken a totally arbitrary stand regarding the hasty recognition of a breakaway faction of TUCC, another central trade union, ignoring the main one.

“So, the debarment of INTUC from the tripartite forums including ILC, we are forced to conclude, as politically vindictive,” it added.

The unions expressed displeasure over not taking action on the unanimous recommendations of the 43rd, 44th and 45th ILCs especially on formulation of minimum wages, same wages and benefit for same work as regular workers for contract labour.

12 Feb 2018 Ferado

Turnbull Government realizes free labour force not technically ‘employed’

AUSTRALIA: Closing the Gap set the goal of halving the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous unemployment rates by 2018 in 2007.

In the tenth Closing the Gap report, released today, the Turnbull Government confirmed that this target will not be met.

In conceding this failure, the Government argued that the figures on Indigenous employment have been “complicated” by the fact that people who were working, and earning a wage, through previous programs are no longer classified as being employed because they are subject to the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s racially discriminatory Community Development Program (CDP).

Quotes attributable to ACTU Spokesperson Kara Keys:

“Workers subject to the CDP are forced to work 25 hours per week, often in manual labour positions, are not paid, receive no employment benefits or rights, have no access to OHS protections or workers compensation. CDP does not generate jobs, in fact, it displaces them.

“The introduction of a scheme which creates a pool of free Indigenous workers ready to be exploited by for-profit businesses, decimating employment opportunities in remote and regional communities has undoubtedly “complicated” Indigenous employment.

“It is obscene that a Government which has enacted a policy as brutal as CDP is now trying to cook the books and explain away the devastating effects of their own program.

“This program is devastating for tens of thousands of people in remote communities who are expected to slave away for no wages. All the hand wringing in the world will not change that.

“The CDP has had a disastrous impact on employment opportunities in remote and regional communities. The Turnbull Government is handing out free labour and wondering why employers don’t seem interested in paying anyone a wage.

“This program is not about helping Indigenous people or empowering communities, it is about punishment and compliance. The rates of penalties handed out in this program far exceed all other welfare programs.

“If the Turnbull Government wants to get serious about closing the gap on Indigenous unemployment it needs to abandon this paternalistic, racist approach and invest in communities on an equal footing, Indigenous workers, like all other workers, should be entitled to decent work, respect and jobs which pay a wage. Until this happens, sadly, we should expect to see more of the same.”

13 Sep 2017 Ferado

Workers protest for wages in Bangkok

Nearly hundred Myanmar employees working on a construction site in Bangkok, according to the Memorandum of Understanding, protested for their labour rights and full wages.

The employers agreed to all their demands on September 11, according to the Thai based migrant right group AAC.

“We had no rights to talk about wages and we can’t speak Thai language. So, we had to work here for a long time without being fully paid” a female construction worker said to The Myanmar Times on Sunday.

AAC and she both told The Myanmar Times that all female workers are getting about 200 baht as daily wages whereas male construction workers get about 260 baht as daily wages. 310 baht has been regarded as the minimum daily wages in labour law.

They added that workers have to work without holidays and they are not paid double wages for worked holiday; they are not paid for extra hours either.

As a result, all Myanmar construction workers went on strike on September 8 and reported the ongoing violation of labour laws to AAC.

“Today, the employer promised to give full salaries and full overtimes wages to the workers by signing a contract in front of agencies officials, AAC, and Myanmar embassy officials” AAC’s member Ko Nay Lin Thu told The Myanmar Times on Sunday.

He also said that the employer promised not to cut off the wages of employees who are on leave period, which is a practice employers would do in the past.

“The Thai employers agreed to all demands. The demands were simply the labour rights enshrined in Thai labour laws. Workers had to ask for it,” said AAC’s member Ko Nay Lin Thu.

All the workers involved have been sent by three oversea employment agencies over two years, under the MoU between the two countries. According to the labour contracts of the MoU, every worker must be paid baht 310 as daily wages and must be paid Baht 58 for any extra-hour, migrant right group said.

“Thai employer solved the problem by signing an agreement to obey the labour rights according to the MoU. All workers will resume work shortly” U Kyaw Zaw, general joint secretary of Myanmar Oversea Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF) told The Myanmar Times on Sunday.