Corporate restructuring causes workplace accidents and kills workers -- Akahata editorial, November 6 (excerpts)

The number of steel workers who die in work-related accidents is increasing.

The Japan Iron & Steel Federation has found that the death toll in workplace accidents this year has reached 18, twice the number of last year's. Also, at the Chiba Ironworks of Kawasaki Steel Corp., four workers have died from work-related accidents this year.

Accidents in workplaces are increasing as companies carry out workforce reductions in the name of restructuring.

At the Chiba Ironworks, the number of workers was 5,200 in 1990. The number was cut to 2,800 in the last 10 years. What is more, the company now plans to cut the number to 1,783.

Not only in the steel industry but also in most of the manufacturing industry, deaths from work-related accidents has increased every year since 1998, when 305 workers died from accidents at work.

According to Tokyo Shoko Research, employees of listed companies decreased by about 105,000 in the past year, notably in the steel industry. It proves that restructuring is the root cause of increasing work-related accidents.

Furthermore, many accidents that occurred in workplaces are not reported as work-related incidents to the Labor Standards Inspection Office.

Another crucial problem is that corporate restructuring destroys the health of employees, forced to work like machines.

According to the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, last July, the largest number of workers in the last 10 years, 6,660,000 or 21.4%, worked more than 80 extra hours a month.

More than 80 hours of extra work in a month is considered a major cause of death from overwork (karoshi). The research shows an increase in the potential of karoshi by workers.

Actually, the Labor Standards Inspection Office identified 115 cases of workers' diseases or death as those from overwork from April to September this year. By the end of this year, the number is expected to exceed the total number last year of 143.

Corporate restructuring on one hand has produced about 3,650,000 newly unemployed people. On the other hand it has caused victims of work-related accidents and karoshi. (end)