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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 April 16 - 22  > Toyota forces non-regular workers to perform ‘voluntary’ activities
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2008 April 16 - 22 [LABOR]

Toyota forces non-regular workers to perform ‘voluntary’ activities

April 22, 2008
Toyota Motor forces its fixed-term contract workers to take part in QC (quality control)-Circle activities and other in-company informal groups, which are ostensibly run by workers as part of their “voluntary activities”.

The QC-Circle is part of the “kaizen” campaign that Toyota imposes on workers to “improve quality and increase productivity.”

QC-Circle participants set respective goals, such as “increasing output” or “reducing defects,” and make suggestions regarding how to achieve them. They are called upon to make reports four times a year and submit them to their section manager.

The Toyota personnel department in a document makes it clear that workers on fixed-term contracts are advised to take part in the QC-Circle and other informal groups in the company. In workplaces, group leaders are telling fixed-term contract workers that “it will be good for them to take part in the QC-Circle if they want to be employed as full-time workers in the future.”

A Toyota worker said, “Full-time workers and fixed-term contract workers attend a 30-minute meeting four times a month. Those two hours are paid. But group leaders spend 4 or 5 hours at home making preparations for meetings and writing reports without pay.”

He also said, “If Toyota wants fixed-term contract workers to participate in the QC-Circle, it should give them full-time positions. To begin with, all those fixed-term contract workers who can work in the same way as full-time workers should be employed as full-time workers. Workers should be paid for jobs under the name of ‘voluntary activities’.”

Fixed-term contract workers are paid only about one-third as much as regular workers’. They are usually on a contract for less than three years.

In the lawsuit filed by the widow of Uchino Kenichi, a former Toyota worker who died at the age of 30 from overwork, the Nagoya District Court acknowledged that participation in QC-Circle activities should be recognized as part of paid work.

Labor Minister Masuzoe Yoichi, in response to Japanese Communist Party House of Councilors member Koike Akira’s probing questioning, said that the ministry will comply with the court ruling.
- Akahata, April 22, 2008
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