Japan labor body to step up support for foreigners, freelancers

, TOKYO, Kyodo - Japan’s largest labor organization will step up support for foreign workers and freelancers who find it difficult to join existing labor unions or form new unions by themselves, a source close to the matter said Tuesday.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, known as Rengo, will boost the support for nonregular workers whose numbers have been rising in recent years as companies cut personnel costs, the source said, citing an action plan.

Rengo will set up a “fair work promotion center,” a unit in charge of offering counseling to nonregular workers, as well as freelancers and disabled people, at its headquarters, according to the plan.

The 7 million-strong organization is considering offering multilingual services for foreign workers, whose number hit 1.46 million as of October last year.

In April, the government introduced a new visa system as part of efforts to cope with a chronic labor shortage due to Japan’s rapidly graying population and declining birthrate.

Rengo will conduct field studies on working conditions for such workers and build databases for further analysis.

It will also grant membership to those who cannot form a union by themselves, assisting them to call for pay increases and anti-harassment measures.

Rengo, an umbrella organization of labor unions mainly representing regular workers, is aiming to ensure job security for nonregular workers and improve their working conditions.

The organization will propose an action plan with concrete measures as it convenes a regular convention starting Thursday ahead of the 30th anniversary of its foundation in November, according to the source.

Rengo’s plan follows recent labor-related developments in Japan, including the launch of a labor union by food delivery staff members of ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. aimed at negotiating better contract terms and working conditions.

Uber has faced criticism for not providing contract workers with insurance for accident compensation and other benefits enjoyed by regular workers.

In Japan, more than three million people are estimated to be working as freelancers, including contractors, according to recent government data.

The government is considering submitting a bill to the Diet next year to protect freelancers from being treated disadvantageously. (Kyodo)



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