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2014 February 12 - 18 [LABOR]

‘Black corporations’ becoming crafty

February 13, 2014
The monthly wage was supposed to be 200,000 yen according to the job announcement, but it turned out to be 130,000 yen. Automatic retirement is “compulsory” if a worker is unable to return to work after a one-month absence due to illness. “I never thought this would happen to me,” said a 28-year-old woman who used to work in the locksmith industry in Osaka.

Directly out of college in April 2013, she entered a company called SLS Inc. operating an unlocking, key exchange, and key repair business. She was assigned to a customer service center to deal with people in a state of panic over losing their keys.

Attracted by the SLS job announcement that read, “A monthly salary of 200,000 yen for college graduates and an 8-hour day”, she applied for and successfully got the job. After entering the company, however, she found out that the base salary of 130,000 yen and the overtime pay of 61,600 yen gave the total monthly wage of 200,000 yen. The base salary was even below the average starting salary of 160,000 yen for high school graduates. She found that she had to work 11-hour shifts and work 66 hours overtime a month.

The labor ministry in its guidelines advises employers not to have workers work more than 45 hours overtime a month, but leaves room for extended overtime work in specific cases. The locksmith business operator, however, openly says, “Without meeting specific-case requirements, we have our employees work about 540 hours overtime a year.”

She was so busy answering the phone that she could not take sufficient breaks. Her superiors yelled at her almost every day. She was increasingly losing her composure. One of her superiors has once berated her in a one-on-one manner for more than one hour, saying, “Do you think the company wants to pay you?” Trying to control her emotions, she pinched the skin on the back of her hand and thighs. She often cried in the bathroom at work.

One day, she felt a fierce pain in her shoulder during work hours and was taken to a hospital by ambulance. She was diagnosed with depression and took sick leave. This was only five months after she joined the company. SLS told her that if she failed to return to work in one month, her name would automatically be removed from the company payroll. “But, it’s not a dismissal,” added the company.

Kitade Shigeru, secretary general of the youth division of the Association of All Osaka Local Labor Union, said, “This amounts to a dismissal that evades breaking the law.” The union is giving her support in collective negotiations. The union activist angrily said, “Some corporations in their job ads lie about actual working conditions to attract applicants. Once they join a firm, they will be forced to work long at low pay. In her case, SLS is trying to kick her out without any compensation. This is a stalk example of the disposable use of workers.”

Professor at Kansai University Morioka Koji, an expert in labor issues, said, “Judging from its law evasion practice, I can say SLS is the worst type of ‘black corporations’. The firm probably has legal advisors coming up with cunning ideas to get around the laws.”

The professor went on to say, “On the one hand, the number of temporary workers is increasing and on the other, getting a full-time position has become extremely difficult. Graduating students have no choice but to accept unstable positions. Without government regulations, the deterioration in working conditions will continue.”

Still now she cannot sleep well and is not in good health. She said, “It’s not fair for the company to increase profits while doing something illegal. All I want is just a normal job and normal life.”
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