Japan shames firms violating labour laws

Employees of Suntory, a brewing and distilling group, visiting a museum after work on Feb 24, a Friday. Japan's Premium Friday scheme calls on bosses to let staff off at around 3pm on the last Friday of every month.
Employees of Suntory, a brewing and distilling group, visiting a museum after work on Feb 24, a Friday. Japan's Premium Friday scheme calls on bosses to let staff off at around 3pm on the last Friday of every month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Govt names over 300 companies, in bid to prevent abuses and death by overwork

TOKYO • The Japanese government has for the first time released a nationwide list of over 300 companies that have violated labour laws, hoping this name-and-shame tactic would help eliminate abuses and prevent "karoshi", or death by overwork.

In the list published this week on the Labour Ministry's website, major companies such as advertising agency Dentsu and electronics maker Panasonic are named for illegal overtime, while a local unit of Japan Post, which is a subsidiary of Japan Post Holdings, is mentioned for failing to report a work-related injury.

Abuses such as illegal overwork have become so common in Japan in the past decade that such firms have been dubbed "black" companies in the media.

Public outrage over long working hours and the suicide of a young worker at Dentsu in 2015, later ruled by the government as karoshi, have pushed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make labour reform a key policy plank.

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The Labour Ministry's list includes 334 companies that have received warnings for excessive overtime and other labour violations between October last year and March.

Regional labour bureaus had already individually made these cases public, though they had sometimes withheld the company names.

However, not all companies under investigation are publicised or included in the list, a Labour Ministry official said. The ministry publicises the companies' names only when it decides doing so would help encourage compliance and be in the public good, she added.

The nationwide list will be updated every month.

Mr Abe's government in March endorsed an action plan for sweeping reforms of employment practices, including caps on overtime and better pay for part-time and contract workers.

The proposals, which may come into effect from 2019, will only add to strains already felt by firms grappling with a deepening labour shortage due to a rapidly ageing population.

That said, more pressure to boost productivity is seen as long overdue and could boost growth in the long term.

Lawyers and activists, however, have said the steps the government has so far proposed do not go far enough.

A spokesman for Dentsu declined to comment, while Japan Post could not be immediately reached for comment.

A spokesman for Panasonic said the company takes the labour violation case seriously and it will work to prevent future cases.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Japan shames firms violating labour laws'. Print Edition | Subscribe