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Major corporations in 2004 pay 22.6 billion yen unpaid wages

In 2004, 1,437 corporations paid a total of 22.6 billion yen to their employees whose wages for overtime work had been unpaid. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare disclosed these payments made in compliance with the Labor Standards Inspection Office directive.

The ministry surveyed companies that paid one million yen or more, and found that about 130,000 yen on average was paid to about 170,000 workers.

Since April 2001, when the ministry published an instruction to "eliminate unpaid overwork," 3,637 companies were forced to end such illegal practices and paid a total of 61.8 billion yen to nearly half a million workers.

These companies include such blue-chip companies as Toyota Motor Co., Tokyo Electric Power Co., Mitsubishi Electric Co., and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., that occupy the board of directors of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren).

Okuda Hiroshi, Nippon Keidanren president and chairman of Toyota, publicly expressed reluctance to comply with the ministry instruction to eliminate unpaid overtime work.

Last June, Nippon Keidanren published a proposal of the so-called "white-collar exemption" making unpaid overwork legal for office workers and engineers who are paid 4 million yen or more a year.

It is a crime to force workers to do overtime work without pay in violation of the Labor Standards Law. It goes against the efforts to eliminate long working hours that allow karoshi (death from overwork,) to run rampant in Japan.

An insurance company think tank has estimated that elimination of unpaid overtime work will create about 1.6 million jobs, increase personal consumption, and raise real Gross Domestic Products by 2.5 percent.

The Japanese Communist Party in parliament has taken up this issue 250 times since 1976. -- Akahata, October 2, 2005

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