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Ginza hostesses battle back against predatory work rules

32 Comments

"With all the fines and my having to make good on the unpaid bills run up by customers, I didn't receive any salary at all for half a year. But I accepted 3 million yen in advance wages when I started working there, so I can't quit."

The speaker, identified only as Ms A, talked to Friday (Feb 18) after the first session of a labor tribunal held at Tokyo District Court on Jan 18. She and two other hostesses had taken their case to the court after claiming their employer, a Ginza club referred to only by its first letter, Q, owed them a total of 4.3 million yen in unpaid wages.

Ms A took action after consulting the Cabaret Club Union, an affiliate of the Part-Timer, Arbiter, Free Timer and Foreign Worker Union (PAFF) based in Nishi-Shinjuku.

"I called them after seeing on the TV news that a union had been formed for workers in the 'water trade' (such as hostesses)," she says. "An attorney I knew had advised me that I had no grounds for a suit and should not proceed with the litigation."

Initially Ms A was to reimburse her 3 million yen salary advance with six monthly deductions of 500,000 yen. Since her daily wage was 46,000 yen, she anticipated that would still leave her with enough to live on for the duration.

Club Q opened in November 2009 and Ms A joined the following month. She soon found to her dismay that the club rules were stacked in favor of the house, so to speak. Over the eight months that followed, she barely received any salary at all, and what little she earned was deducted against the 3 million yen advance.

She didn't even have enough money to pay for necessary services like beauty treatments, and found herself falling deeper and deeper into debt. As her finances became desperate, last November she and two co-workers at the same club filed suit with the labor tribunal.

"Nearly all Ginza clubs levy penalties against violation of rules, and salary disputes as a result of these happen frequently," says Ms B, a veteran trooper with over 20 years experience working at Ginza. However, she added that rules per se are not necessarily bad, since they foster a relationship of mutual trust between workers and the employer. She, nonetheless, agrees that Club Q's house rules were simply too extreme.

The rule book contains 18 conditions, clearly stating that a hostess would incur fixed penalties for arriving late to work, for missing work, if unable to meet her customer quota and so on. The penalties were to be deducted from their daily wages.

For each 15 minutes of tardiness, for example, another 10% of that day's wages would be deducted. For an absence without prior notification, she would be penalized for 100% of the next day's wages as well.

"The rules in that place are unlike anywhere else in Ginza," Ms B pointed out. "R Mama, the boss, is a Shanghainese who became a naturalized Japanese. She obliged staff to abide by these severe rules, which were drawn up so arbitrarily it's like she had no idea of how Ginza club rules are supposed to work."

When Friday's reporter called R Mama for a comment, she blurted, "My lawyer will do all the talking!"

The attorney said the penalties were "justified" given the type of consignment contract between hostesses and the club. "If enough penalties add up, it stands to reason that in some cases no salary will be paid out," he told the magazine.

The next tribunal session is scheduled for Feb 22.

Ultimately A's case may have far-reaching repercussions for the vixens who toil in the Mecca of Japan's water trade. From the legal standpoint, is a hostess an "independent operator" or an "employee?" How, Friday wonders, will the tribunal eventually rule?

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32 Comments
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She didn’t even have enough money to pay for necessary services like beauty treatments, and found herself falling deeper and deeper into debt.

What happened to her 3 million yen advance?

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I cant believe this industry is still going strong. Not for any moral reasons but just because it is so expensive and these days people (ie men) just dont have the money to chuck around.

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What happened to her 3 million yen advance?

I recall reading somewhere else that she paid all that money to the previous bar where she worked, because she was obliged to make good on the bills run up by her deadbeat customers. A case of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, it seems.

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"What happened to her 3 million yen advance?"

That's long gone.

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Good for these hostesses. In one of the few professions a woman can make decent wages the clubs try to screw them and skim their pay.

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Sorry Miamum, some guys still have money $$$$,and $$$ to burn,so even if many of us are not rich, a few are and they are enjoying their expensive drinks over in Ginza not Shimokitazawa etc..like the rest of us mortals that must work for a living, right?

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What a wonderful life. Living as a slave is terrible.

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Miamum, the business is flourishing. I don't know about the small sleazy parlors, but the luxury hostess bars in Ginza are doing great. I don't think that girl has a case here, since she was paid by the rules in the contract she signed: deductions for being late, etc. However, the mama-san may have breached some laws with the contract itself, since I assume there are some regulations about these contracts

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Ah, OK, I was just under the impression that no-one has money to burn anymore - obviously some people still do!

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Timeon, it depends on whether the contract was legal or not. You can't be penalized for violating an illegal contract, even if you signed it. The onus isn't on you to know that the terms are illegal, but on the business to not include illegal terms.

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46,000 daily wage for crap rules and regulations? I have no sympathy at all. Just follow the rules and work hard, and you will be rolling in money! Where can I sign up?

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"...you will be rolling in money!"

Not all hostesses make great wages, but most do reasonably well. A select few become superstars and earn a fortune.

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Complaining about being penalized for tardiness? Welcome to the real world, young lady. It's a JOB.

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Predatory work rules. Says enough.

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Not all hostesses make great wages, but most do reasonably well.

It's a high-risk, high-return profession. The girls get commissions on the sales of customers they bring to the club, but if the customer runs up a big bill and can't pay, the girl gets stuck with the charges. That's why the one in the story had to borrow 3 million yen in the first place.

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HermioneGranger at 01:09 PM JST - 11th February 46,000 daily wage for crap rules and regulations? I have no sympathy at all. Just follow the rules and work hard, and you will be rolling in money! Where can I sign up?

Yeah, that comes to nearly a million yen a month (working on an average of 21 working days a month), or over 11 million yen a year! Yes the rules are tough, but none of the penalties cited in this article are unavoidable. If you're on time then you don't need to worry about being penalised, so the objective of the rule is to ensure the girls arrive a bit early. How hard is that? The "unscheduled absences" rule is a bit rough if you suddenly get sick, but that's hardly a regular occurance, maybe once every few months, and to lose 2 days pay every 3 months still leaves you with plenty.

... Unless there are other unavoidable rules that aren't quoted I'd say these girls are just being whiney entitled little brats who think they're entitled to show up late, skip work when they feel like it and do whatever they want with no consequences. They should try a real job sometime and see how quickly they're fired if that pull that sort of stuff.

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Docking pay for being late is normal... you lose the pay for the amount of time you were late. If you don't show, you don't get paid. But the rule docking 100% of the NEXT workday's pay is tantamount to a day's-worth of slavery.

The rule requiring you to meet a guest quota or get docked is tailor-made for abuse as well. All the house has to do is raise the quota to where it's normally impossible to meet and the house saves having to pay out full wages. That one needs more controls in place.

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What an outrage! The United Nations should investigate.

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Um, I don't know exactly how it works,

Poke@ It is not about not paying for a single visit, it's about businessmen running up a monthly bill entertaining their company's customers, bureaucrats, etc. The hostess acts as guarantor so that her customer can receive credit, and she takes a cut of the overall revenues apart from her basic salary. But if he can't pay, she's obliged to make good on the debt. The system has been around a long time but was not a problem in times of the booming economy and easy credit. Recently I've noticed that more and more swank shops in Ginza selling European designer goods are being replaced by fast food shops and convenience stores. Looks to me like the 'trickle down' economy is drying up.

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Poke,

This sounds exploitative in a Japanese way.

This happens in every country. It's not unique to Japan.

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These rules sound arbitrary and in fact against employment laws. It's one thing to take a pay cut, it's another to hold an employee responsible for money another employee is supposed to be collecting. It's the business that hands out credit, not the hostess. And you can't just fine an employee for lack of business. Maybe pay them nothing, but making them pay you beyond that is the issue.

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If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The girl thought, yeah, I can make 46,000 yen a month and didn't bother to look at the fine print. Still, these kind of companies are sleazy and underhanded and often take advantage of naive, greedy, young girls who want expensive beauty treatments and hand bags. They should be kept in check by the government. But then again many companies in Japan treat their employees like slaves...

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Sounds like the Shanghainese Mama has become uber Japanese.

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yes, those ladies from Shanghai are quite tough

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Photos of the aggrieved party would help clarify things.

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Arbiter -> Arbeiter

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bdiego at 09:28 AM JST - 13th February These rules sound arbitrary and in fact against employment laws. It's one thing to take a pay cut, it's another to hold an employee responsible for money another employee is supposed to be collecting.

Lots of restaurants have this sort of policy, where the waitress is responsible for the bill if the client walks out, simply because the waitress handles the money and it is too easy for a lying waitress to receive payment and claim the client walked out without paying.

Likewise most salespeople have quotas, and in many countries they can be fired or have their salary docked if they don't make their quota. It all depends on how their contract was phrased, I've seen a lot of employers advertise the "salary" based on "averages", but when the contract actually arrives you'll see its all variable, and the employer only pays for actual hours worked, or sales made, etc, and at worst you can be in the situation of being employed on paper, but with your employer not sending enough shifts/clients/whatever your way to actually make a living.

In isolation none of these clauses seem to be unprecedented, although together they're a bit rough, still if these girls didn't like the contract they shouldn't have signed it. They're not victims here in any sense except being victims of their own stupidity.

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Sorry Frungy, but "in isolation", docking 100% of the pay for a day worked simply because the worker didn't show up the previous day (and didn't get paid) is theft. The employer is demanding services without compensation. THAT is unprecedented.

...still if these girls didn't like the contract they shouldn't have signed it. They're not victims here in any sense except being victims of their own stupidity.

God help the victim of a mail-order bride abuse/murder trial if you're on the jury. I'm sure the girls working in the Hostess industry all said to themselves, "I could work for this corporation, I could work for that store, or I could work where I have to push booze on guys who are only there to gawk and molest me. Yeah! That last one sounds good!" Something tells me the Hostess industry was not their first choice, but ended up being the only one they had left - besides outright prostitution.

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Q: this abuse happened because the mama san was originally from shanghai?!?

A: Yes, all japanese business people are honest and fair.

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labor laws are there for a reason and are applicable for all kinds of employment.

Financial penalties and salary deductions of more than 10% are unlawful. This should be a simple win for Ms A.

A club should look into a reward scheme instead of punishment. How about: 30 days on time in a row will result in 10% raise, or surpassing a quota will result in hostesses keeping 100% of what they made above the quota? cool, eh? maybe i should run a club now :-D

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A club should look into a reward scheme instead of punishment. How about: 30 days on time in a row will result in 10% raise, or surpassing a quota will result in hostesses keeping 100% of what they made above the quota? cool, eh? maybe i should run a club now :-D

You'd go out of business fast if you were giving 10% raises based only on punctuality. Say you have five hostesses and they all made it to work on time this month. Your employee payroll just jumped by 10%. If they managed to be on time for a year, your payroll jumped by 185% for the year after compounding all the monthly increases!!

Offering 100% of the income over and above a set quota would promote fraud by your employees against the customers in order to quickly get above the quota level. The fraud and the bad word-of-mouth reviews would cause the customers to stop coming, and you would end up going out of business. Cause and effect. Anytime you consider changing the business model, you have to examine things from the point of view of, "How can my customers and/or employees 'game' the system with this change?"

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Um, I don't know exactly how it works, but the part about charging the girls if a customer can't pay seems potentially abusive as well. How does that work? A guy comes in, spends a few hours chatting, drinks a bottle of whiskey that's way overpriced because he's supposedly paying for the privilege of talking to the girl in the club...then someone gets out without paying. Then, what, the girl gets charged everything that club would have been paid? I could maybe see charging the girl for the cost of the whiskey, maybe a penalty for letting her mark take up space...but above that seems ridiculous, and its the girl that's providing the talent that attracts the men in the first place. The club, not the girl, should be responsible for some things, like ensuring that customers can and should pay. This sounds exploitative in a Japanese way.

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