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2014年8月 9日 (土)

すき家過重労働 赤字は従業員軽視のツケだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tumbling into red, Sukiya pays price for working staff into the ground
すき家過重労働 赤字は従業員軽視のツケだ

The working hours were outrageously long. They must be rectified immediately.

The harsh working conditions at the Sukiya beef-bowl chain have been revealed in a report by a third-party panel set up by Zensho Holdings Co., the parent of the gyudon chain’s operator.

Some Sukiya staff worked more than 500 hours a month and were unable to return home for two weeks. Only one employee was on during graveyard shifts, so they could not even go to the bathroom. These unreasonable working conditions had become routine at the food chain.

The Labor Standards Inspection Office had repeatedly pointed out that Sukiya was violating the law, but the company did not take any fundamental steps to improve its practices.

Management’s attitude of giving short shrift to even the health of Sukiya’s employees cannot be simply overlooked.

Details about the harsh working conditions at Sukiya restaurants spread online and through other channels. The resulting nosedive in job applicants eventually rendered Sukiya unable to secure enough part-time workers. Many Sukiya outlets were forced to temporarily close due to staff shortages, and Zensho is now forecast to register a loss this fiscal year. This will be the first time Zensho has fallen into the red since it was established.

This is the price Sukiya must pay for dumping an excessive workload on its employees. It has exposed a major shortcoming in the company’s business model of continuously expanding its network of outlets and squeezing out every last yen in profit by curtailing labor costs.

At a press conference, Zensho Holdings Chairman and President Kentaro Ogawa said the company “will change its plan to have all outlets operating 24 hours a day.” Ogawa also said he plans to abolish the practice of having just one employee working through the early hours of the morning by the end of September.

The company must quickly create an environment in which its employees can work comfortably.

Staff bearing brunt

Sukiya is not the only company at fault. Competition is intense in the restaurant chain industry. There has previously been criticism of companies where employees committed suicide due to the stress of excessive working hours and other arduous conditions, and exploitative cases of staff being made managers in name only so they do not receive overtime pay.

The mass departure of staff and difficulties in attracting new employees are indications that a company’s work environment is unduly severe. Businesses exhibiting such signs should learn a useful lesson from Sukiya’s woes, and check for any problems with their own work structure and treatment of employees.

In fiscal 2012, the number of people recognized as suffering from work-related heart disease and other conditions due to excessive work increased for the second consecutive year. Cases of work-related mental disorders also increased by nearly 50 percent, hitting the highest figure on record. This is a very serious situation.

The government must take effective countermeasures based on the karoshi (death from overwork) prevention law that was passed this year.

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey of about 5,000 companies suspected of forcing employees to work excessive hours and other unfair practices found 80 percent were violating the law.

In Japan, there is one labor standards inspector for every 20,000 workers. The ratio of these inspectors, who are responsible for clamping down on companies that violate labor laws, is below that of many other major nations. We hope the government will thoroughly examine whether the nation’s systems for monitoring and exposing labor law violations are sufficient.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2014)


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