Ritsumeikan University Lands Itself In Trouble

In Japan, companies and schools must follow certain procedures for any overtime to be allowed under the law.

The Labour Standards Law requires that a workers’ representative, elected by a majority of ALL workers (not just those who vote), sign off on an overtime agreement. This means that the elected representative then has the power to permit (or refuse) overtime to take place. Without the proper election of this workers’ representative, any work over 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week is NOT allowed.

In reality, the representative is often a stooge put forward by management to meet legal requirements - as what worker would have the audacity to say no and block all overtime?

Not only would the representative be in strife with their employer, but most likely also with coworkers who rely upon a certain amount of paid overtime to make ends meet.

A recent inspection conducted by the Labor Standards Office (LSO) of the Ritsumeikan University's Kinugasa Campus workers' representative election found that the representative elected in 2017 had not been elected by a majority of workers and thus rendering the overtime agreement invalid.

So what does this all mean?

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While open to conjecture, there are a few possibilities as to why the LSO investigated Ritsumeikan:

i) It is possible is that the university was already under investigation for other Labor Standards Law violations, so the LSO did a search for "low hanging fruit" to make the university comply on other issues.

These kinds of elections are difficult to run and it is impossible for the university to force employees to vote.

However, unless 50% do vote in favor of the workers representative the school or company cannot allow any overtime to take place.

In reality, many such elections, if investigated, would be found to be invalid.

ii) Another equally valid theory is that a union, or even an individual, forced the issue at the LSO.

A union in negotiations with a company may find talks stalled, and one way to help things move along again is to look closely at the employers operations and look for illegalities to use as leverage.

By reporting the employer for "low level" violations, the union can send the message to the employer that "we mean business".

Only time will reveal the full story at Ritsumeikan.

For now, if you have more information, please let us know.

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Read the Kyoto Shimbun article.

 


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