« 国際科学五輪 理系人材を生かす社会作ろう | トップページ | (社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇 »

2014年8月 9日 (土)

(社説)すき家の教訓 使い捨てにはその報い

August 08, 2014
EDITORIAL: Companies eventually pay the price for bad treatment of workers
(社説)すき家の教訓 使い捨てにはその報い

It was not uncommon for employees at the Sukiya restaurant chain to put in more than 100 hours of overtime each month, which is generally regarded as the threshold for “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

That was the finding of a committee that investigated the working conditions at the beef bowl chain.

The third-party panel of experts set up by the chain’s operator, Zensho Holdings Co., published a report on its findings on July 31. The report said most employees at the chain had experienced working 24 hours nonstop. Some workers put in such long hours they could not even find the time to return home for two weeks at a time.

The panel criticized Zensho for failing to improve the working conditions, despite being repeatedly urged to take remedial measures by the Labor Standards Inspection Office concerning problems like overtime in excess of the limit set in the chain’s labor-management agreement.

The panel’s report painted a dark picture of how employees of the company listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange had to endure physically taxing working conditions.

Zensho will be held accountable for making good use of the report to ensure better treatment of its employees. The investigation also highlighted a number of other issues, such as the need to enhance the powers and functions of the Labor Standards Inspection Office.

But are the problems at the Sukiya chain unique to that company alone?

Last September, the labor standards watchdog looked into the working conditions of companies that were suspected of using young people as “disposable workers.”

More than 80 percent of an estimated 5,000 workplaces monitored by the labor standards office were found to have committed violations of labor laws, such as illegal overtime and extra work without pay.

At 730 workplaces, or nearly 15 percent of the total, the workers doing the longest monthly overtime put in more than 100 extra hours. The longest monthly overtime was more than 80 hours at 1,230 workplaces, or nearly a quarter of the total.

Another investigation found that more than 100,000 workers in Japan worked extra hours without receiving overtime pay in fiscal 2012. These workers should have received a total of 10.4 billion yen ($102 million) in overtime pay. The figures fell from their peaks, but are still at high levels.

Many companies have adopted the same staffing policy as that of the Sukiya chain, which was described as being on the “winning side” in an era of deflation. Companies with this policy prefer nonregular workers like part-timers to full-time employees and harshly exploit them.

The dire state of working conditions at Sukiya restaurants came to light as workers quit one after another while encouraging their co-workers to do the same. They aired their grievances on the Internet, forcing many Sukiya restaurants to suspend or shorten their operations.

Sukiya workers could afford to rebel against their employer because the improved economy created more job offers and made it easier for them to land other work.

If the economy had continued to be in bad shape, the problem might have gone mostly unnoticed and become even more serious.

A growing number of Japanese companies, including those with a reputation for long work hours, have been turning their nonregular workers into permanent employees and improving wages and other work conditions. These moves also reflect the seriousness of the labor shortage that is threatening Japanese industries.

There are, however, legitimate concerns about how these companies would behave if the economy slides into the doldrums again. Our fear is that they may suddenly reverse their attitudes.

Zensho is expected to report a net loss for the first time in its history, due partly to the closure of many Sukiya restaurants.

Corporate executives throughout Japan should learn from the mess created by Zensho and realize that a company that does not treat its employees well will have to pay the price sooner or later.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 8


« 国際科学五輪 理系人材を生かす社会作ろう | トップページ | (社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇 »





« 国際科学五輪 理系人材を生かす社会作ろう | トップページ | (社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇 »