Workers of regional bank win shorter work time without pay cuts

After 12 years of struggle, a trade union of a regional bank in northeastern Japan has won shorter working hours without pay cuts.

Hokuto Bank, a regional bank based in Akita Prefecture, has decided to abolish the practice of extending regular working hours on "special business days," which had been arbitrarily imposed by the Japanese banks' management as common practice.

As a result, total yearly working hours of a bank employee will be cut by about 41 hours to a total of 1,776 hours. Hokuto Bank will be the first to shorten total working hours to less than 1,800 a year. In explaining the measures, the bank cited the computerization of office work which has increased efficiency and the clerical work consolidation.

Since February 1989, banks are closed on Saturdays in Japan, but shortened business days have not brought about a shorter workweek for bank employees. Banks everywhere in the country have designated business days falling on the beginning of the week and days from 25th to the end of the month as "special business days." Under this system, overtime worked on the busiest days were regarded to be within the regular hours.

In 1989, Hokuto Bank changed the work rules without the union's consent and forced its employees to accept 95 such "special" days a year. (end)