THE ASAHI SHIMBUN: Japan’s Pro-Capitalist Union Federation Rengo Leaders Forced To Back Down On Supporting Exemption of Professionals From Overtime Pay-Workplace Suicides „karoshi‘ Growing Rengo retracts its support for ‚zero overtime pay’ legislation

SAPPORO–Facing a backlash from labor unions, Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) on July 27 formally retracted an earlier agreement reached with the government and business world to exempt high-income professionals from overtime pay.

A special meeting held here of Rengo’s Central Executive Committee, made up of top officials of affiliated unions, organized along industrial sectors, decided to scrap the earlier decision made by a small number of top Rengo executives.

The initial agreement led to a flurry of criticism from member unions, which forced the hand of the Central Executive Committee and led to the retraction of that earlier move.

A smaller group of union executives met July 26 and confirmed the plan to retract the earlier agreement. It asked the Central Executive Committee to make a formal decision.

Rengo had long expressed opposition to proposed „no overtime pay“ legislation that would exempt high-income professionals from restrictions on working hours. But some Rengo executives gave conditional support for the bill during a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That move caught many Rengo members by surprise, and triggered an uproar among lower-level member unions.

While the latest decision means Rengo will return to its past stance of opposing the no overtime pay provision, it will not affect the trade union confederation’s request to the government for legal revisions that would strengthen measures to prevent death from overwork.

A number of instances of company employees committing suicide in recent months has placed the spotlight on the issue of „karoshi,“ or death from overwork.

According to those who attended the July 27 Central Executive Committee meeting, Rengo’s chairman, Rikio Kozu, and Naoto Omi, the secretary-general, both offered their separate apologies for sowing confusion in the organization and upsetting union members.

Rengo also issued a statement in Omi’s name stating its intention not to sign an agreement with the government and Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on revising the Labor Standards Law with regards to working hour regulations on high-income professionals.