Zenroren Task Force News
Struggle over Civil Service Reform
The secretariat of the government task force on the promotion of civil service reform (hereafter “the secretariat”) on March 3 presented Zenroren Task Force for the Struggle over Civil Service Reform with a document entitled “A general picture of the nation’s civil service system reform.” The government task force is expected to finalize the plan in mid March, after holding consultations with trade unions as well as with related government authorities.
Zenroren request for further discussions with the government panel
The general picture of the reform (draft) sets out concrete measures to carry out “reform” in conformity with the basic law on civil service reform. It deals with many areas, including employment, training, personnel affaires, and employment and pension benefits for workers who have reached retirement age. Bills that will be introduced in the current Session of the Diet include one to define the labor relations in the civil service, which has a bearing on the restoration of the union right to negotiate labor contracts, and one to establish a “public service employees agency”, as well as a bill to revise the National Public Service Law to establish an autonomous relationship between workers and the employer.
Zenroren Secretary-General ODAGAWA Yoshikazu, who heads the Zenroren task force, and federation leaders, who are members of the Zenroren task force, met with representatives of the government task force, including FUJIMAKI Masashi deputy secretary-general of the government task force.
Fujimaki began his explanation by saying: “This morning the Democratic Party’s project team on civil service reform held a meeting and approved the government’s general picture (draft). I would like to explain about this plan. It will be finalized by the government task force in mid March (probably around March 15). After this, drafting the bill will begin. Although we are trying to submit the bill in the current Session of the Diet by the end of March, there are a number of points that need further discussions. So, the Cabinet approval of the bill may not come before April. We hope to hold sufficient discussion with you to establish an autonomous labor relationship. The secretariat of the government task force is working hard on it.” His explanation on the contents of the general picture (draft) focused on particular points.
After listening to Fujimaki’s explanation, Odagawa said as follows:
Zenroren has its opinion on what has been proposed as a proposed basic law on national civil service reform. We understand that an entire vision of a new system has been set out, including the establishment of autonomous labor relations. Let me express our opinion in the light of the more than 10 years of discussions on civil service reform.
The first point concerns the basic labor rights, which are constitutional fundamental human rights. We must say that it is too hasty to finalize a plan just two months after the general picture (draft) was set forth in December last year, even though public comments have been collected only once. In particular, we are dissatisfied with the process that has made light of consultation with labor unions, in particular Zenroren. Even if the time to prepare to submit a bill is limited, we want the government task force to take steps to make up for insufficient aspects.
The second point is about labor-management relations in the civil service. The general picture shows the readiness to consider establishing a labor right to dispute for public service employees. However, at this stage, it only talks about restoring the right to labor contracts. We are dissatisfied with this. It should at least make clear that it will continue to consider allowing public service employees to exercise a right to dispute.
The third point is about the examination of the qualification of unions, the handing of provisions on the management of unions; the need to establish a system similar to the present overtime work system, which has been agreed upon under Article 36 of the Labor Standards Law; upper limits on full-time union officers permitted to keep their status as full-time government employees; the principle governing decision of wages and the survey on private sector wages, prior Cabinet approval of affairs concerning the conclusion of labor agreements; and the definition and functions of a fair personnel commission to be established in the Cabinet Office. These points are not convincing.
No concrete proposal has been made as to what to do with basic labor rights in the local public employee system, which is closely linked to the national civil service. We will strongly call for negotiations and consultations to be exhausted in earnest toward building a consensus apart from those issues that are to be decided in the government task force.
As for the proposed changes in personnel management systems and the administration of retirement, there are issues that remain unresolved. They include the following questions. Doesn’t the reorganization of the examination system amount to justifying the privileged career system? Aren’t uniform management of personnel affairs, arbitrary demotion, and the establishment of a policy staff system tantamount to lowering the barriers between professional civil service employees and political appointees, making public employees politicized? Wouldn’t it be necessary to establish regulatory provisions on dismissals to avoid dismissals similar to what occurred in the former Social Insurance Agency? We demand that these issues be discussed in negotiations and consultations.
The need is to draft a plan that would guarantee the basic human rights
OKABE Kan’ichi, a member of the Zenroren task force and general secretary of the Japan Federation of National Public Service Employees’ Unions (Kokko-roren), said:
The plan would replace the National Personnel Authority with a fair personnel commission. Wouldn’t this undermine neutrality required of such a personnel authority? It is natural that the present system of recommending changes in wages be abolished, but you must remember that making recommendations is not what the National Personnel Authority is all about. The question is what is the significance of eliminating the body itself? A duration employees are allowed to work as full-time union officers should be agreed upon by the union and the employer.
Other issues that have bearings on working conditions of government employees should be further discussed between the government and labor at all stages, including legislation.
KITAMURA Yoshihisa, a Zenroren task force member and general secretary of the All-Japan Federation of Teachers and Staff Union (Zenkyo), said as follows:
You have given a general picture, but we are dissatisfied with the fact that you have not come up with any concrete plans regarding local public employees. We hope to hold negotiations and consultations with related authorities based on the general view. The basic labor rights are part of fundamental human rights.
That’s the angle from which a future system should be designed. In this connection, provisions concerning management and administration should be made subject to negotiations. When a joint investigation team made up of ILO and UNESCO officials came to Japan, they paid attention to the handling of provisions concerning management and administration. On such provisions that have bearings on working conditions should ultimately be subject to talks conducive to agreement. This represents international standards. I want the system now being considered should be made closer to the international standards.”
SARUHASHI Hitoshi, a member of the Zenroren task force and general secretary of the Japan Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Unions (JICHIROREN), said as follows:
There is an argument calling for public employees’ wages to be cut in exchange for giving them labor rights. This has nothing to do with guaranteeing the basic human rights. It is important to recognize that guaranteeing basic labor rights mean guaranteeing fundamental human rights for residents. One year has passed since the publication of the final report of the government panel that examined the labor-management relations, which was to be the basis for considering the autonomous labor-management relationship. But discussion on the system has been disregarded. Discussion on a national system should be the basis for discussion on local systems. This is why it is important to conduct careful discussions at the national level with a view to applying it to local systems.
Fujimaki responded to Zenroren task force members by making the following comment:
Given the difference of stance, it is difficult to find common ground. But establishing an autonomous labor-management system is a reform that would come once in 100 years. It could not be accomplished without your cooperation. We would like to realize a meaningful system through discussions at key stages, including the drafting of a bill and its implementation. We are well aware of the importance of fairness and neutrality. We believe it possible for a civil service employees agency as the responsive employer organ and a fair personnel commission as an independent body to perform duties that have been done by the National Personnel Authority. It takes both labor and the employer to enable the new system to function properly. We will try as much as possible to improve the working conditions, but there can be things that are not functional. We ask you to be forward-looking in helping us develop a good system.
Following today’s discussion, the Zenroren task force will continue negotiation and consultation with government officials.