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Union group may agree to up to 100 hours of overtime per month during busy season

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) is considering agreeing to an idea by the business industry to allow up to 100 hours of overtime a month during busy periods, it has been learned.

    On Feb. 23, General Secretary Naoto Ohmi of Rengo began a meeting with Senior Managing Director Satoshi Mukuta of the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren -- Japan's largest business lobby. The meeting was held at the Keidanren building in Otemachi, central Tokyo, for around 30 minutes. After the meeting, Ohmi said, "If things are kept as they are, nothing will change. We have to change them."

    Currently, while 45 hours of overtime a month and 360 hours of overtime a year are allowed by labor-management contracts, if special additions to a contract are made, unlimited overtime for up to half a year is possible, which has led to criticism that it is too unrestricted and serves as a haven for notorious deaths by overwork.

    The national government plans to revise the Labor Standards Act to clearly define a limit on overtime. A plan for an average limit of 60 hours per month and 720 hours per year has been agreed to by both employers and labor representatives. The business circle is pushing for up to 100 hours of overtime if limited to a single month, but Rengo has until now strongly rejected this.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 14 urged talks between Keidanren and Rengo, saying if they did not reach agreement the current situation of "unlimited" overtime would continue. The opinion has risen in Rengo that they have no choice but to accept the 100-hour idea, but under the condition that the construction and transport industries introduce overtime limits.

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