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Japan Business Federation “Recommendations for Labour Legislation Centered on Labour?Management Autonomy” and Labour?Management Consultation System


4 Feb 2024

On January 16, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) released its “Recommendations for a Labour Legislation Centered on Labour?Management Autonomy.”

First of all, the recommendations call for simplification of the current labour laws, which Keidanren argues are too abstract and complex to achieve working styles that meet the needs of workers and the actual conditions of companies. In particular, it suggests that current working hour laws should be made more flexible, based on discussions between labour and management, to allow workers to choose a working style that meets their needs and the needs of each type of work.

The report also states that today, labour?management communication is increasing in importance and should be pursued further. However, the report points out that the strength of Japanese companies, in which labour and management of individual companies together discuss and decide the ideal workplace environment, is shrinking due to the declining unionization rate.

Therefore, the report calls for consideration of the establishment of a “labour?management consultation system” under the law, which would allow companies without a majority labour union to selectively establish new opportunities for collective labour?management negotiation.

Under this labour and management consultation system, companies without labour unions would elect several labour representatives from among all workers, including fixed-term workers, in a democratic procedure, obtain certification from the administrative body, and provide the necessary information and consultations.

The report then states that, if agreed in consultation, labour representatives and company representatives could conclude a contract to govern individual workers. It also states that the introduction of this system should be optional, and left to the judgment of individual labour and management.

In response, RENGO issued the following statement from its General Secretary

“First of all, in light of the fact that there is no end to the number of workplaces violating the Labour Standards Act and the prevalence of issues such as overwork-related deaths, deregulation of labour laws in the name of respecting the autonomy of labour and management is unacceptable. The regulation of labour hours in particular needs to be maintained.

Regarding the ‘legalization of a labour?management consultation system’ designed to promote effective labour?management autonomy, it is important that we first promote the establishment of equal labour and management relations through labour unions that guarantee the three rights of labour. Moreover, it is also necessary to examine the most desirable form of collective labour?management relations from a medium- to long-term perspective while adhering to the principle of equal partnership between labour and management.”

Keidanren’s argument certainly seems to be that deregulation of labour laws in the name of labour and management autonomy is the main agenda. Considering the environment in which workers find themselves today, RENGO is correct in its assertion that deregulation of labour legislation in the name of labour and management autonomy is not permissible.

However, it is unusual for Keidanren to recognize the importance of labour and management consultation, and to go so far as to argue for its legislation. On the other hand, such legislation is also included in RENGO’s policy and system demands, so there may be room for both parties to come to a compromise.

RENGO’s policy is as follows.

“On the basic premise that labour unions are the primary representatives of workers in the workplace and that unions are the only representatives of workers that can be involved in setting working conditions, it is important that efforts be thoroughly made to build a foundation for collective labour and management relations at all workplaces. The next step is to establish labour laws that include the establishment of worker representative committees in workplaces where a majority union does not exist.

Regarding the post-legislation efforts for workers’ representation, RENGO will develop a campaign in conjunction with its organizing efforts to develop workers’ representative committees at unorganized workplaces into labour unions. Additionally, to emphasize the necessity of labour unions, RENGO will carry out social campaigns, including raising public awareness and engagement.”

Given the declining labour union organization rate, communication between labour and management, as well as the establishment of a place for such dialogue, has never been more crucial.

Labour and management discussions are essential to ensure fair working conditions and to build relationships of mutual respect and trust between workers and employers.

In other words, building a cooperative relationship based on communication between labour and management is important to protect and enhance the economic status, self-realization and welfare of workers in the face of increasingly diverse and complex industrial and enterprise needs and behavioral patterns.

We hope that RENGO and Keidanren can deepen their discussions on establishing an effective labour?management consultation system in non-unionized companies and organizing labour unions as an advanced form of worker representative committees.