According to Mainichi Shimbun another case of death due to overwork comes into Tokyo city court. In this case the suit is against not only the company, but as well for the first time against the government as well. The family of the man who committed suicide is saying that authorities failed to supervise the unlawful labor agreement between the company and its labor union. This young 24-year-old man had entered a Yokohama-based plant maintenance firm in April 2007. He was then assigned to an office in Chiba as a construction site supervisor. The news paper articles says that due to a labor shortage and a delay in the construction schedule, he was forced to work an average of 123 hours of overtime per month between January and August 2008, with his overtime topping 200 hours in July. He developed a mental disorder, resulting in suicide in November afterwards. The issue in this case is that the company and its labor union had agreed to allow its employees to work up to 150 hours of overtime per month, or up to 200 hours if necessary. This is actually against the national labor law.
While my heart goes out to the family, I am wondering how many other Japanese workers are facing now the same situation. Doing a rather large number of overtime hours – mostly “service zangyo” (free overtime work) – is a part of the Japanese working culture. While I understand that financial pressure in companies demand efficient solutions, but it is for me no excuse to allow an environment where people end up seeing no way out than to kill themselves. For sure this case is worthwhile to follow in the news while not forgetting we are talking about situations when people’s lives was lost. Most likely I can be sure that none of the readers of this blog has the same work load as this young man, or how come someone with this heavy load finds time to read this blog?
Praying for the soul of this young man and hoping for a labor friendly future for all companies in Japan,
Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)