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'Izakaya' operator to pay Y133 mil over employee's suicide due to overwork

37 Comments

Watami Co, which operates a chain of "izakaya" (Japanese-style pubs), has reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of one of its employees who committed suicide due to overwork.

Watami admitted responsibility for overworking Mina Mori, 26, who killed herself in June 2008, two months after joining the company, Fuji TV reported. The company has agreed to pay Mori's family 133 million yen in compensation, the family's lawyer, Kazunari Tamaki, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Mori joined Watami as a full-time employee in April 2008, and was forced to work until late every night, with no days off. She worked more than 140 hours overtime each month, for which she was not compensated.

In June of 2008, she jumped to her death, which was recognized as a work-related death by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Mori’s parents filed a lawsuit against Watami and Miki Watanabe, the president of the company at the time, and who is also a member of the House of Councilors, in 2013, demanding an apology and compensation of 153 million yen.

At first, Watami asked the plaintiffs to dismiss their claim and denied any responsibility for Mori's death. However, on Tuesday, Watami finally admitted that Mori’s death was due to overwork and agreed to pay Y133,650,000 to Mori's family.

The company also promised to review its labor practices.

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37 Comments
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unfortunate. there are many companies just like it.

same thing will happen again,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll be avoiding Watami in the future as well. It has been my favourite chain until now, but this company president sounds like a real piece of work and the company culture is disturbing at best.

Hopefully DomaDoma is better

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@MikeRowave - "the leftover of the times when those... samurais were running around"

Yes. The samurai had the legal right from the emperor to CUT DOWN any commoner who dared to show DISRESPECT. But Japan isn't like that anymore!! ;-)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

My_OpinionDEC. 11, 2015 - 08:29AM JST Japanese are taught to be submissive to superiors so they get abused all the time. Just imagine what would happen if the folks in this country grew a pair and decided to go on strike until these labor issues were addressed.

This so spot on. It is the cause of most problems here and it is the leftover of the times when those parasite samurais were running around leeching off of the population.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@My_Opinion - "Japanese are TAUGHT to... get ABUSED all the time"

Nothing further to add!!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japanese are taught to be submissive to superiors so they get abused all the time. Just imagine what would happen if the folks in this country grew a pair and decided to go on strike until these labor issues were addressed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think an otherwise mentally healthy person would quit such a job long before killing themselves.

Absolutely true, Disco. The thing is, after working that many hours, no one can remain mentally healthy.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The 133mil seems like a high settlement to me and is close to what the family asked for, but it's surprising to me that Watami admitted responsibility like that. Even though the overwork seems to be a key factor, it's hard for me to believe it was the only cause. Regardless of how bad forced and unpaid overtime is, I think an otherwise mentally healthy person would quit such a job long before killing themselves.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why didn´t she quit the job?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If you read sensenotsocommon's post, you would have your answer. The CEO (maybe former CEO) is a member of Japanese parliament! The people in power are literally profiting from wage slavery.

Takeda

I did read all that. I was more or less shouting about Japans pretty much total disregard to ITS labour laws.

I have watched the Japanese people SUFFER for over 2 decades, it just ticks me off that people here are treated so badly & even if the "win" they still really LOSE!

As one poster said pretty much most J-companies can be called BLACK companies & the authorities here don't give a damn, in fact they promote this poor behavior

And then the old foggies scratch their bald heads wondering why women don't want to work in this country.......its just nuts!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is that the name of the chain, Watami? So I can tell all my friends to boycott.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

HollisBrownDEC. 09, 2015 - 01:47PM JST Japanese people need to learn when it's OK to tell a superior to 'stick it'. Also, it's clear that labor groups aren't doing a good enough job in keeping working conditions fair and appropriate - its my understanding that this is mostly because unions and companies are too closely related.

Worse than that, unions are company specific. Therefore, were there a walk-out at Toyota, their "brothers and sisters" at Nissan would not follow suit. Of course, they don't "do" walk outs or even slow downs. To my knowledge, there is no equivalent to SEIU or HERE in Japan. Japanese labor unions have been pretty useless since the late 1960s.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Amazing overtime work. Even if they paid double, it still would not be healthy and worth it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

RIP Mina-chan!! :-(

Only God knows how many lives you have saved by your ultimate sacrifice...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

He'll make the company absorb the cost, and those losses will inevitably tricky down to the already paltry salaries of the poor folks still working for this parasite's izakaya.

Even THAT won't happen. I'm sure the company has insurance for just this sort of lawsuit. The insurance company will pay.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What a small settlement. It would seem that is barely enough to cover the unpaid OT. Why is there no punitive fine?

Japan is so effed up sometimes. The head if this company is a national politician and there is no ethics investigation forcing them to resign? Damn...I want to puke.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I once lived this life. When I first arrived in Japan, my hours were just short of what Ms. Mori endured (~120 hours of overtime per month to her 140) and my salary was probably similar. I was exhausted and depressed enough to consider suicide many times.

Sleep deprivation is what brings on suicidal thoughts: all you can think of is wanting to rest. Older people will claim that the young don't need to sleep so much, and of course the short-sleeper types who naturally get by on just five hours think anyone needing more rest is weak. These people only make the problem worse, making workers think, "So I'm tired, miserable, and weak and with the constitution of an elderly person too. Why keep going?"

I can easily see how Ms. Mori gave up. The temptation is always there. And when your brain is addled from not having enough sleep, and all you see ahead if you is endless days of work and tiredness, that temptation just grows.

People like to point out that there are fields in the West where these kinds of hours are normal, such as for aspiring doctors and investment bankers. The all-important difference is that those jobs are extremely well-compensated. They can t least afford to live within walking distance of work, gaining an all-important extra hour or two of sleep! And when it's over and they get promoted, they're rich.

Contrast this with the wages paid to young Japanese employees regardless of industry, who simply don't know how badly they're being exploited. After earning $6.50 per hour in the campus cafeteria, I still thought I was well-paid when I calculated my hourly pay as a Japanese salaryman to be about Y1000. Now, unlike then, I know that my company got a fantastic deal on my labor.

And you never really get over it once you live that way. You never develop the aggressiveness to go for more in life, because you think, "At least I get 8 hours of sleep and 2000 calories a day unlike when I was 25; I'll always be thankful for not having to live that way anymore." You never want to change jobs, because who knows if your next one will be a return to slavery? Push for a raise? No thanks; if the boss thinks I'm uppity, I might be overworked again.

Sometimes I think this is one of the rarely-spoken-of benefits to Japan Inc. of this exploitative system. You get slave labor in the early years, but also a docile worker who remembers those bad times, which just happen to be when your brain is malleable and influence-able, and gladly accepts any kind of mediocre lifestyle afterward, just as long as it isn't as horrible as it once was.

Requiēsce in pace, Mina Mori. You deserved better.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Wow. There are so many things wrong about this situation. The Japanese need to learn how to say 'no'. Actually dealing with the government falls in the same category; refusing to accept this kind of behavior. It seems the government minister needs to 'resign'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is seriously messed up & STILL the powers that be DO NOT CARE, the people of Japan lose AGAIN! You just cant win if your Japanese sadly!

If you read sensenotsocommon's post, you would have your answer. The CEO (maybe former CEO) is a member of Japanese parliament! The people in power are literally profiting from wage slavery.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wish i new this when she first died, i used to go to one of there shops all the time and would stopped earlier. But this firm is going down the toilet business Karma.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

WTF is with this we will "review" crap!!

Why the hell isn't the govt raiding this place, coming out with the cardboard boxes etc! Why isn't the company FINED for breaking labour laws

Why is the GOVT NOT enforcing labour laws?????

This is seriously messed up & STILL the powers that be DO NOT CARE, the people of Japan lose AGAIN! You just cant win if your Japanese sadly!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Start trending this.

Do something about it.

Share the story and get people to boycott.

I will go to the one near me today and hand out photocopies of the Japanese language article to inform people passing by that they may want to reconsider supporting this evil chain.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I suppose the only good thing in all of this is that Watami are finding it more and more difficult to find workers. A university friend of mine told me straight that she would never work for any izakaya connected to Watami due to the bad press they have been getting.

With the declining population and jobs becoming easier to find I hope that in the future companies will be unable to treat people so terribly, because workers will just walk out on them and find another job.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The company also promised to review its labor practices.

Translation: NOTHING will be done.

I don't think I'll be drinking there anytime soon.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Glad he has been held financially accountable to one of his victims.

But he won't though. And that's the point. These kinds of exploitative asshats never see any true punishment. They shuffle around the legal shells that insulate them from true accountability and live another day to exploit the next batch of college grads.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Take a dive like footballers do. Then the ball's in the employer's court: give you time off, or worry about legal repercussions. Unfortunately, younger workers are less familiar with their rights.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It is telling that, while the Abe administration gives ample lip service to lifting wages of average workers and making it possible for young people to have working lives that permit them to raise families, he at the same time personally selects people like Watanabe to be part of his government (he was, I believe, chosen as one of the proportional representative candidates by Abe rather than having run a contested election himself).

Glad he has been held financially accountable to one of his victims. There really should be criminal liability in cases like this too though.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"The company also promised to review its labor practices."

So, more than seven years after the fact the company is JUST NOW going to 'promise to REVIEW' its labour practices?!? This is also, very clearly, a problem of the government's. The family should now sue the government for not doing anything about said labour practices and instead leaving it up to Watami and others to 'review' and 'think about' changing, but not changing. No wonder this goes on, with the government itself promising to 'look into' black companies but never doing a thing about it.

As one poster said, this isn't "black companies", it's Japan in a nutshell, and clearly it takes suicide and repeated attempts to deny it before finally admitting on a micro-level there's a problem, then refusing to change.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Watami is the same izakaya chain that was in the news a few months back that was having to shutter up some outlets not because of a lack of customers, but rather because of a lack of employees. They simply weren't getting enough applicants to staff their stores. And a key part of the problem was precisely what drove this woman to suicide: Ridiculous amounts of unpaid overtime for a physically demanding job that part-time position that paid at most 1000 yen per hour. Yoshinoya and Sukiya were fast-food chains facing the same issue.

People wonder why these kinds of illegal practices continue, but the answer is clear: The owner of Watami is no less than a government minister.

It would be great if Miki Watanabe was forced to pay that 133 million out of his own pocket, but it's a pretty fair assumption he won't have to. He'll make the company absorb the cost, and those losses will inevitably tricky down to the already paltry salaries of the poor folks still working for this parasite's izakaya.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Tip of the iceberg?

The company also promised to review its labor practices.

Meaning: its practices are still going on. Until they are being discovered.

Unfortunately this happens not only at Watami.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

from the Japan Times (my italics):

The day before she died, she had risen at dawn to attend an obligatory once-monthly early morning training session at the company’s Tokyo headquarters. At the session, participants were tested on their ability to cite passages from an inspirational book by Watanabe — the cost for which was deducted from employees’ wages. It’s possible that Mori’s low score of 68 out of 100 points may have also factored in her suicide.

As well as owning over 700 restaurants and 90 nursing homes, Miki Watanabe is Director of the LDP's Research Committee on Governing Structures, Committee on Oversight of Administration, and a member of the Committee on Economy and Industry, according to the Diet.

What a thoroughly splendid chap!

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2012/06/17/national/watami-under-scrutiny-after-karshi/#.Vme8IoSTbdk https://www.watanabemiki.net/english/ http://www.sangiin.go.jp/japanese/joho1/kousei/eng/members/profile/7013067.htm

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Japanese people need to learn when it's OK to tell a superior to 'stick it'. Also, it's clear that labor groups aren't doing a good enough job in keeping working conditions fair and appropriate - its my understanding that this is mostly because unions and companies are too closely related.

This story reminds me of a story an ex student told me 9 or 10 years ago: He was beckoned into his manager's office where his manager went on to berate him about his 'poor quality' of work. My student's apology, angle of bow, etc wasn't deemed good enough and the boss went on to break his arm.

I asked my student what he did next, expecting that he called the police or went to hospital - no, he went back to his desk in huge pain, finished his days work, and then took himself off to hospital. The police and his union were never involved.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Mori joined Watami as a full-time employee in April 2008, and was forced to work until late every night, with no days off.

Did they use physical "force"? Duress? Coercion? If so, this was wrong by Watami.

-10 ( +9 / -19 )

Whenever I read or hear a news story about a "black" company, I just substitute "Japanese" for "black."

15 ( +18 / -3 )

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