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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 March 23 - 29  > After union’s 40-year-long efforts, animation studio contract staff win worker status under Labor Standards Law
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2016 March 23 - 29 [LABOR]

After union’s 40-year-long efforts, animation studio contract staff win worker status under Labor Standards Law

March 23, 2016
A survey conducted by the Japan Animation Creators Association in 2015 shows that 37.4% of staff in animation studios earn no more than 2.5 million yen a year. In addition, a vast majority of these workers are contract-based workers and there are many who quit their jobs before turning 30 due to anxiety about their future.

Toei Animation, one of Japan’s oldest studios in the animation industry, has long held an exploitative labor policy since it was founded 60 years ago. It was said that regarding labor policies, Toei Company, the parent company of Toei Animation, has a motto that goes, “The company will be unable to create a movie or an animation film if it abides by the Labor Standards Law.” To make matters worse, Toei Animation hired no regular employees over a 26-year period and made up the shortfall in the labor force by using one-year contract workers. This was also the company’s strategy of dividing workers.

The Toei Animation labor union, which is affiliated with the federation of Toei group labor unions, granted union membership to all types of workers in order to counter the company’s divide-and-control strategy. Seeking to eliminate unstable employment, the union has worked hard to improve the working conditions of contract workers. The union’s decades-long efforts helped those workers receive better treatment, such as being included in the distribution of meal coupons, annual wage hikes and bonuses, payments of commuting allowances and overtime, and social security coverage.

The union and the company management agreed to improve employment conditions by 2004 as a local tax office inspected Toei Animation in 2001 and recognized 154 contractors’ incomes as not self-employed person’s business income, but employee’s salary income. This was an important achievement, but the company neglected to implement the agreement. It maintained the position that contractors are not workers protected by the Labor Standards Law, but self-employed business owners.

The federation of Toei group labor unions, along with the Federation of Cinema and Theatrical Workers’ Union of Japan (Eien-Roren) and the Toei Animation labor union, have urged Toei Animation to recognize these contractors as their employees so that the Labor Standards Law will apply to them. As a result, in labor-management negotiations held on March 2, Toei Animation agreed to establish a contract worker system in which workers are fully covered by the Labor Standards Law and the company offers workers an open-ended employment contract and a retirement plan. This is a historic agreement that was made in accordance with requests that unions had made for four decades.

Commenting on the latest agreement, Kawachi Masayuki of the federation of Toei group labor unions said that the union will keep working to make the studio more worker-friendly and help create animation films that will give dreams of delight to children.
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