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2011 General Survey of the Situation of Labor Agreements

On June 27,2012, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued a report on a general survey of the real situation of collective agreements concluded between labor and management in Japan. The general survey is conducted every five years with the aim of grasping the extent to which labor agreements are concluded, what their contents are and how they are operating, amid the changing working environment.

The general survey of this time covered 4,086 company-based unit unions with 30 or more members in membership as of the end of June 2011.

Specific Results of Survey

To what extent labor agreements were concluded and what were their contents?
The ratio of the unions that had concluded labor agreements was 91.4%, up 2.4% over the previous survey. By company scale, 97.5% of unions in the companies with 5,000 or more workers had concluded labor agreements, the highest ratio. The lowest was 85.1% for unions in the companies with 100-299 workers. In other words, the larger the company is, the more likely it is to have a labor agreement.

Regarding the conclusion by negotiation item in labor agreements, in the case of trade union-related items, there were higher rate of trade unions which said that they had agreements stipulating matters concerning collective bargaining (75.2%), check-off (the deduction of union dues from a worker's paycheck; 74.1%), and union activities in working hours (71.3%). On the other hand, regarding the items relating to working conditions, there were fewer trade unions which replied that they had agreements stipulating matters concerning overseas posting (19.5%), education and training (24.8%), and promotion (35.7%).

How are labor agreements operating?
Regarding how labor agreements are operating, the survey of this time was conducted only on the matters relating to personnel affairs.

Regarding the item of personnel affairs in labor agreements, the ratio of the unions which had gotten involved in them in some way of agreement, consultation, opinion hearing, advance notification, or ex post facto notification, was 73.0% for "dismissal", 71.0% for "disciplinary action", and 65.1% for "transfer". Of these matters, the ones which trade unions had an especially high degree of involvement in such ways as agreement, consultation, or opinion hearing were dismissal (45.7%) and disciplinary action (43.4%).

Application of labor agreements to workers other than regular workers
The union membership ratio of part-time workers, who work fewer hours a day or fewer days a week than regular workers, was 39.3%, up 20.2% over the previous survey. The union membership ratio of fixed-term contract workers who work on a full-time basis unlike part-time workers, was 45.3%, up 21.8% over the previous survey.

The ratio of the trade unions applying all or part of their labor agreements was 41.9% to part-time workers and 45.0% to fixed-term contract workers.

RENGO's efforts for the measures for non-regular workers
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare analyzed that "the survey showed the achievements of unions' efforts for promoting measures for non-regular workers who were in unstable employment."

At present, more than one-third of working people in Japan are non-regular workers engaged in part-time jobs, dispatch work, or fixed-term contract employment. While the diversification of work patterns has advanced, it is also true that against the background of global and excessive competition, companies have been placing priority on switching to non-regular employment as a way of reducing personnel expenses. As a result, many people are forced to work in non-regular jobs, with low wages and poor working conditions, even though they desire regular employment.

RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) is making an all-out effort to ensure employment stability and fair treatment for the workers with diverse employment and work patterns, such as fixed-term contract workers and part-time workers. In its campaign to ensure equal and balanced treatment for non-regular workers, RENGO is aiming for an early enactment of a revised Labor Contract Law which is related to fixed-term labor contracts. The revision includes (1) switch to an open-ended labor contract in the case of a fixed-term contract that has been repeatedly renewed for more than five years, (2) legislation of the so-called termination rule (see note below), and (3) prohibition of unreasonable treatments for the reason that the contract term is fixed.

RENGO is also working actively for a revision of the Part-time Work Law so as to correct discriminative treatments given for the reason of working part-time and ensure equal and balanced treatment for part-time workers.

Note: The "termination rule" means that, in the case of a fixed-term labor contract, if renewal procedure is a matter of routine and/or unless any rational reason cannot be recognized for not continuing employment after expiry of the contract period, employment cannot be terminated.

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