The Tokyo Labor Commission ruled Monday morning that Japan College of Foreign Languages (JCFL, a division of Bunsai Gakuen) illegally discriminated against a member of the JCFL local due to his union activity by reducing his work load. The commission held that in doing so JCFL management inflicted financial damages against him. The commission ordered that JCFL pay the member backpay for his unpaid wages.
Further, the commission ruled that JCFL has been bargaining in bad faith about student satisfaction score data that had influenced management’s decision to reduce the workload of a union member. Management was ordered to bargain in good faith.
The commission has ordered management to apologize for violating the constitutional rights of our members and to post a large sign apologizing to the union at the workplace for ten days.
The victory was thanks to the relentless struggle of the local.
The union had also filed several other claims with labor commission including interference with a leafleting and failure to bargain in good faith with the union by refusing to disclose the official work rules. While these claims were not upheld by labor commission the union is considering filing an appeal.
Tozen Union has grown to 235 members in 20 locals.
Flabbergasted. That was my feeling last week reading the news of an example of brazen institutional sexism and fraud 33 years after the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.
Each year since 2010, Tokyo Medical University fraudulently lowered the scores of female applicants who took the annual entrance exam, keeping the percentage of young women admitted at about 30 percent.
Only those who pass the school’s written multiple-choice exam can move on to the final short-essay-and-interview phase. The cap on number of admissions is set without reference to gender. This year 2,614 took the entrance exam, of which 61 percent were male and 39 female. The university took the women’s test scores and multiplied them by a coefficient less than 1 in order to reduce their scores across the board. This resulted in men comprising 67 percent of those passing phase one and 82 percent (141) of those passing both phases. Only 30 women (18 percent) managed to make it through to admission.
By 2010, the percentage of women gaining admission had skyrocketed to nearly 40 percent of the total. Many new female physicians leave the workplace for childbirth or child care, so some in the university apparently feared that too many women entering the ranks might lead to a dearth of qualified professionals. So some genius — a man, no doubt — had the bright idea of solving this problem by holding back women at the entrance exam stage. That is how the university has justified what it did.
The education ministry has stated: “A university can take responsibility for adjusting gender proportions if they make it explicit when they are recruiting for the entrance exams. If Tokyo Medical University made such an adjustment without explanation, then it is problematic.”
The media naturally have latched onto this issue since it came to light. Many people were angry and shocked. Women who failed this year’s entrance exam at the university wondered if they too had suffered from this unfair downgrade. They had spent so many sleepless nights, just like their male counterparts, studying to pass the test. Their efforts were betrayed.
Some spoke in anger, voices quivering. Even some male students who passed expressed frustration that they can’t have real confidence in themselves as students of this prestigious university since they may have squeaked in by taking the place of a more deserving female. The university has betrayed students of both genders.
Tired arguments resurrected
Part of what makes this a huge story is the financial, physical and mental cost involved in getting to the entrance exam in the first place.
Getting into medical school in Japan is tough in two ways. First, the level is simply very high, requiring one, two, three or even four years of devotion to study. Second, it is expensive. Private med school can cost you ¥20 million to 30 million ($180,000 to $270,000). A regular family of ordinary means cannot hope to pay for it.
Students going into private med school often are the children of doctors. Or at least they have the means. If they don’t, then public med school is the only choice. Even that can set your parents back a good ¥10 million.
And high school graduation cannot possibly prepare you in terms of the necessary knowledge for the entry test, so you’ll have to go to after-school prep school and study basically day and night. Of course, your family will have to cough up that tuition too. And that isn’t cheap either.
Some in the medical education world have known about and turned a blind eye to these universities who cheat women out of admission. Some say it has been an open secret.
“This is normal. All the schools are doing it,” said Dr. Ayako Nishikawa on the Aug. 5 edition of “Sunday Japon” on TBS. “If they just admit the best, the freshman class would be all female. Because girls are better. But then everybody will be ophthalmologists and dermatologists. Women can’t handle heavy people with hip dislocations.
“Few (women) become surgeons. After all, we need boys who will become surgeons. You can’t operate with a big belly. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to do something about gender ratios.”
Admittedly, she did at least recognize the need for such a gender adjustment to be announced.
While some criticized Nishikawa for promoting sexism, others echoed her and said she is simply relating the reality she sees as a physician. She is a plastic surgeon who has appeared numerous times on TV as a “celebrity doctor beauty.” Although her perspective might be different from ordinary physicians, there is no denying she is certified.
Or should that be certifiable?
Think of what she is saying. She looks at the world of medical study and says that affirmative action for men is fine and dandy. Then she justifies this position by enumerating women’s supposed physiological characteristics: They are weaker and have less stamina than men, will leave the profession once pregnant and so on. She related the lack of doctors in emergency rooms, surgery and other fields and claims that equal treatment will damage Japan’s medical system.
But do data from other countries back up Dr. Nishikawa’s assertions? Japan had the lowest proportion of female doctors of any Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country (see graph), below the U.S. and South Korea. At the other end of the rankings, Latvia and Estonia lead the pack with more than 70 percent of doctors being women.
So her claims don’t hold up under universal scrutiny. Other countries seem to be doing fine with very high percentages of women physicians.
To the extent that she is right about Japan, it reflects more the miserable working conditions Japanese doctors are subject to. Men who have stamina and care nothing about work-life balance are the only ones perhaps that can manage the job.
Instead of trying to remedy that problem, Tokyo Medical University manipulated test scores to rob spots from women who had burned with passion to become doctors, studied their cardiopulmonary systems out and passed some of the most challenging tests in Japan. Imagine going through all that only to be cheated at the end of it.
A legal battle already won
It’s difficult to look at this from a labor law point of view. I first must remind myself what century we are living in.
Once upon a time, statistics were used to justify unequal treatment. This was called statistical discrimination. What it meant was that since women were more likely, from a statistical point of view, to work fewer years, get pregnant/give birth (much more likely), raise children and quit their jobs, therefore corporations were justified in 1) not spending the nonrecoupable resources on training them, 2) in not hiring so many women and 3) in treating men and women differently.
Before 1985, many corporations used this statistical discrimination to justify introducing internal systems that forced women to resign upon marriage and systems of retirement that differed according to gender.
In one case ruled on in 1969, Tokyu Kikan Industry defended its system of retirement that pushed men out at 55 and women out at 30 thusly: “Continuing each year to raise, across the board, the wages of female employees hired to do auxiliary work that doesn’t require special skills or experience just like the wages of (male) workers who do the main work and work that requires skill and experience makes no sense. It would not only lower employee motivation; it would interfere with efforts to streamline management. So, setting the female employee retirement age at 30 makes sense.”
But 1985 saw the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (Kinto Ho), which prohibited discrimination from the recruiting stage, through hiring and to retirement. A gender-based retirement system was clearly outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1981 after a plaintiff sued Nissan Motor. Even today, however, employers find loopholes to treat female workers unfairly. But at least there is a clear legal framework that makes justifying gender discrimination impossible.
Tokyo Medical University discriminated against students who will be future workers. Many people, I think, have the impression that the highly specialized, “certificate-only” world of doctors and lawyers is more naturally gender-equal than the domain where ordinary private corporations dwell. My friend even became a lawyer because she thought she’d be shielded from the harsh sexist corporate world. I was shocked by this test score scandal and even more by the ho-hum reaction to it from many commentators.
We should really take a long, hard look at how unfair this score fraud is to female students, just as the corporate quit-upon-marriage and gender-based retirement age systems of yore were. Most importantly of all, the women who were bumped to make way for the boys need to be given immediate and proper redress.
Lawmaker Mio Sugita of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party found herself embroiled in controversy when the August edition of Shincho 45 was released on July 18. “Support for LGBTs has gone too far” screamed the headline of her article in the magazine.
This hard-right politician is already infamous online for her claim that the wartime network of sexual slavery serving the Imperial Japanese Army, euphemistically known as the “comfort women” system, is a fabrication of the Japanese left, and for attacking Koreans with such gems as “They spread their lies throughout the world.”
To mothers who lament the dearth of preschools available in Japan and demand that the central government take quick action to rectify the situation, she says: “That is your problem. You do something about it.”
She recognizes herself as conservative, right-wing and a patriot, and expresses animosity — even hatred — for the left, even penning a book titled “Why I Fight the Left.” The book heaps abuse on labor unions and praises nuclear power, casinos and the high-level professional overtime pay exemptions that will go into effect next April. Yet she loves Japan’s “beautiful culture and history.”
In her recent essay, she wrote: “Will people agree to have their taxes used on LGBT couples? They cannot have children, so they are unproductive.”
Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage. Local governments, on the other hand, have spearheaded efforts to use local ordinances to recognize same-sex partnerships. These include Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo and the cities of Iga in Mie Prefecture and Takarazuka in Hyogo.
Tolerance within society for the LGBT community is growing rapidly. IBM Japan, Kirin, Rakuten, Japan Tobacco and other corporations are moving ahead in instituting policies to provide the same level of special paid leave for marriage, childbirth, home care and other life events to same-sex couples as to those between a woman and man.
Unwelcome on golf course
Let me introduce to you a recent verdict to give an idea of what Japan’s courts are saying about LGBT people.
A golf course in the Shizuoka city of Kosai (whose name has not been released by the courts) refused membership to a corporate executive who had changed her registered gender from male to female. In Japan, this requires you to assert that you suffer from gender dysphoria. She sued the golf course for damages due to wrongful conduct, a violation of Japan’s Civil Code.
Shizuoka District Court ruled on Sept. 8, 2014, and the Tokyo High Court handed down a verdict on July 1, 2015. Both agreed with a portion of the claims and ordered the defendant to pay the hefty sum (by Japanese jurisprudent standards) of ¥1 million.
In its verdict, the appellate court clearly condemns discrimination against LGBT, although in a way that is likely jarring (or even maddening) to some: “Society understands quite well that being LGBT is not a matter simply of a hobby or predilection, but rather an illness that they suffer regardless of their will. The intolerability of irrational treatment based on the reason of gender dysphoria or on its treatment is the same as the intolerability of irrational treatment for the reason of other illnesses.”
One thing to consider is that the golf course has a bathing area, changing rooms and other “sensitive” facilities. The high court noted that the plaintiff is physically and in terms of appearance a woman, and that when she visited three times and used the bathing area and the changing room, there were no problems. Whatever damage the golf course operator envisioned it might suffer, the court said, was “nothing more than abstract fear.”
The opinion of other members of the golf course had no effect on the verdicts. The operator surveyed its members about the issue, and some 60 percent agreed with refusing her membership. The courts investigated the survey, however, and noted that it was conducted after the suit had begun and that questioners pushed respondents to answer in a way that was advantageous to them. “The results of the survey should not be given much weight,” read the verdict.
Even if the survey had accurately reflected the opinion of the members, the courts ruled that customers’ opinions could not justify discrimination.
Transgender woman wins
OK, let’s turn now to a proper labor law verdict. But to do that, we’ll have to go back a way, to 2002.
The plaintiff, a transgender woman, was working at Company S. She had yet to undergo reassignment surgery, but she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and had begun treatment. Although she hadn’t yet changed her registered gender, she had changed her name to a more stereotypically female one and wore women’s clothes to work.
Company S dismissed her for violating their dress code. She sued for reinstatement, back wages and bonus. Tokyo District Court ruled in her favor and overturned the dismissal.
The court ruled that the employer could not prohibit an employee from dressing as a woman at work, or transfer her for doing so, if she would suffer great emotional stress by not dressing as such due to gender dysphoria. The employer also could not do so just because clients and customers object or feel uncomfortable, provided those feelings do not rise to the level that threaten to seriously hinder the fulfillment of tasks at work.
Case law remains sparse, but it seems that if LGBT people really want to take their grievances to court, the courts believe that employers must take the proper treatment of the LGBT community seriously.
The Sagamihara parallel
LGBT people account for 7.6 percent of the Japanese population, according to a 2015 survey by Dentsu Diversity Lab. This estimate means that 1 in 13 Japanese are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That means that any reasonably sized workplace is likely to have at least one LGBT member.
Sugita ‘s comment really irritates me. I cannot understand how a politician, or even a member of our society, can stand there and deny the existence of someone because they cannot procreate.
The defendant in the appalling massacre on July 26, 2016, of 19 severely disabled people in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, said: “Those who can do nothing for themselves are a bane to society. On behalf of society, I did only what everyone else is thinking anyway.” He was confident in his pure fight in the name of justice.
His rationalization has something in common with Sugita’s comment. She might plausibly object that she has not called for the murder of LGBT people, so she shouldn’t be lumped together with a self-confessed mass killer. But at root, Sugita, like the Sagamihara suspect, denigrates and negates the existence of the “useless” human beings of the world.
Sugita has a daughter. What if she someday comes out to her mother? “I didn’t raise my daughter to be unproductive,” we can imagine her huffing.
Must our society be so rigid and conformist? Sugita claims she loves Japan’s history and culture more than any other politician, so she should know and be proud of the fact that ancient Japan was a hotbed of all manner of hugger-mugger and promiscuity — much of which was not at all “productive” in Sugita’s bizarre sense of the word.
Hifumi Okunuki teaches at Sagami Women’s University and serves as executive president of Tozen Union. She can be reached at email@example.com. Labor Pains appears in print on the last Monday of the month. Your comments and Community story ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org
L’Institut français du Japon (IFJ) est à la fois un centre culturel dépendant de l’Ambassade de France au Japon et une école de français. Ce sont les cours de français qui assurent une grande partie du financement de l’établissement et de l’action culturelle de la France au Japon. Pourtant, depuis plusieurs années, l’IFJ a entrepris de dégrader systématiquement les conditions de travail des enseignants qui assurent ces cours.
En septembre 2015 la direction a unilatéralement annoncé une nouvelle grille salariale qui représente pour la plupart des enseignants une baisse de revenu pouvant aller jusqu’à près de 40% et un raccourcissement des contrats de 1 an à 6 mois. Ces changements à cette date avaient pour but de contourner la mise en vigueur au Japon de la loi sur les 5 ans, loi qui oblige, à partir du 1er avril 2018, les entreprises à donner un contrat permanent aux mêmes conditions à tout travailleur en CDD depuis au moins 5 ans dans son entreprise, ce qui est le cas de la quasi-totalité des enseignants.
En réponse, le Syndicat des Employés de l’Institut (SEI, affilié au syndicat Tozen de la fédération Rengo, la plus grosse fédération syndicale du Japon) a mené plusieurs actions, y compris des grèves, pourtant exceptionnelles dans le contexte japonais.
La réaction de la direction a été entre autres de mettre en concurrence des employés avec divers contrats pour entraver les actions de solidarité en donnant les cours des employés syndiqués à de nouveaux employés ; de licencier plusieurs employés certains avec des décennies d’ancienneté ; de menacer de licenciement les employés qui ne signeraient pas les nouveaux contrats avant la date d’entrée en vigueur de la loi sur les 5 ans.
Le public de l’Institut, constitué de personnes qui aiment la France et le français, a répondu favorablement aux actions du SEI et plusieurs actions de soutien des élèves à leurs professeurs ont été menées (lettres à la direction de l’IFJ, pétitions). Malgré cela, l’IJF continue ses attaques contre ses employés.
L’IFJ prépare depuis plusieurs années une telle politique de contournement de la loi sur les 5 ans. En réaction à cette politique, 3 employés de l’IFJ ont déposé une plainte le lundi 2 juillet 2018 auprès de la justice japonaise pour exiger que l’IFJ cesse de contourner la loi et applique la législation japonaise à laquelle sont soumis les contrats de ses employés, et non les directives du gouvernement français qui semble croire qu’il fait la loi au Japon comme en France. À cette occasion, une conférence de presse a été organisée le lundi 2 juillet à 16h30 par Tozen, le SEI et Rengo dans les locaux du Ministère du Travail, de la Santé et de la Protection sociale, pour expliquer les raisons de cette plainte.
Exactly 50 years back, the streets of Japan boiled in revolution. The protests against the Narita airport and alleged collusion of then Prime Minister Eisako Sato with the United States in the Vietnam war brought the cities to a halt. Tear gas, water cannons and the occupation of University of Tokyo’s infamous Yasuda auditorium have been etched as vivid memories amongst people of that generation.
50 years later, the streets are silent or at least, the mainstream Japanese media projects it to be. Japan’s largest media corporations came under fire for deliberately not reporting protests and people’s opinions after the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami. Not very long after that, in 2012, the Japanese government amended the labour contract law.
The amendment in the labour contract law implied that all fixed-term employees can give themselves a permanent status if they have been employed for over five years. The lawmakers have claimed that it is for enhancement of job security and were challenging the rising fixed-term employees at various institutions. As of 2015, Tohoku University has 5,771 irregular employees as opposed to 4,686 regular employees. Yet, institutions have found a way to exploit the loophole: To not renew a fixed-term employee beyond five years.
Since the implementation of the law starting from April 01, 2013, five years have been completed on March 31, 2018. This implies that institutions can officially decline to renew any fixed term contracts and prevent the irregular employees from becoming regular. Tohoku University, like many others in the country, has decided to do so.
With very little reporting about the same in the mainstream English media apart from the exception of Hifumi Okunuki’s op-ed article in ‘The Japan Times’ in 2016, the issue remains unclear and unknown, to the student community and the outsiders. The regular protests by Tohoku University Kumiai on the Katahira campus have attracted very little attention from the students. “We really want the students to know about it,” said one of the Kumiai members to the Sentinel who has decided to remain anonymous.
Protests against the administrative decision near Kawauchi station
The university has already initiated the process of terminating the contracts of the fixed-term employees by not renewing them. It has substituted them with new employees who may face the same fate 5 years from now. “The university says that it doesn’t have any money to guarantee our employment in the future but they have been constructing buildings after buildings and a lot of them have also been for the sheer symbolism of reconstruction and revival post-2011,” the Kumiai member said. “The lawyer representing the university is from Tokyo. Appointing someone all the way from Tokyo costs a lot of money,” the member added.
Last year, the university put in place an examination for the irregular employees, some of whom who have worked for nearly a decade at the university. The set terms were clear: The ones who fail to clear it, would be terminated immediately. In a somewhat expected move, only 30% of the test-takers cleared the examination. “Everyone from the Ryugakuseika department cleared the test which could probably be reasoned for their ability to communicate in English,” said the Kumiai member.
This year also saw the shift in leadership as President Hideo Ohno stepped into the shoes of presidency, succeeding President Susumu Satomi. “There has been no change due to President Ohno stepping in. It is all the same,” the Kumiai member said. “He said he requires time for studying the topic deeply,” the member added. President Ohno replied the same when ‘The Sentinel’ asked him about this issue in an interview back in January 2017, few weeks after he was announced as the President-elect. ‘The Sentinel’ also tried asking this to President Satomi in an interview but the secreteriat refused to give us permission to ask him anything about the issue.
It is also surprising to note that most of these 3,243 employees are female employees. Since most of them have a family to take care of and the household expense is majorly supported by the husband’s income, they choose to take an irregular job. With Prof. Noriko Osumi stepping in as the new Vice President for Public Relations and Promotion of Diversity, it is expected that the gender imbalance will be seen with greater importance in administrative decisions. She is the first female professor at the School of Medicine and is also the Director of TUMUG (Tohoku University Centre for Gender Equality Promotion). Yet, the Kumiai member thinks otherwise. “She has focussed only on researchers and regular workers. She has not addressed any of the gender issues that the 3,243 employees who are on the brink of losing their jobs are facing.”
The fine prints and implications of this new law which was supposed to guarantee more jobs bring in new details. “After completion of 5 years, the fired employee can re-join the institution after a break of 6 months for another 5 years. So, some of the employees who left the university in March this year may be able to re-join in October. This is absolutely incomprehensible. I cannot do without 6 months’ pay,” said the Kumiai member. Questions like what would happen if the university hires new employees in the period between April and October remain ambiguous and no clear answers were found.
Like Tohoku University, Hokkaido University and Osaka University are also amongst other centres for higher education who have decided to axe the jobs. On the other hand, the negotiations between the labour union at University of Tokyo and the administration has been somewhat successful and irregular employees are still holding on to their jobs. The union at Tohoku University is always in constant discussion with administration about important issues but the number of members have fallen over the years. “Many are not concerned unless their jobs are affected,” the Kumiai member said.
A part of this problem can also be traced back to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s decision in 2003 to turn all Japanese national universities into institutions with corporate status or, ‘national university corporation’, as they are now known as. This has pressured the universities to look out for their own funds. With MEXT reducing its subsidies to the national universities by 1% each year, the universities have responded by hiring more irregular staff and axing clerical jobs. United Kingdom adopted similar idea back in 1988 under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher but responses from citizens have been mixed.
Back in July 1974, the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict in the Toshiba Yanagi-cho Factory case where seven plaintiffs worked on revolving 2 month-contracts and one of them was renewed 23 times. The Supreme Court upheld it as jotai-setsu (Legal principle of abuse of the right to dismiss applies if circumstances suggest that employment is in effect permanent, even if written contract indicates a fixed term).
The court case between Tohoku University and the 3,243 workers shall witness its first hearing on August 22 this year. The workers are represented by a voluntary lawyer from Sendai city. “Well, the court case will take a long time,” the Kumiai member said.
Article 02 of Japanese Labour Standards Act says, “Working conditions should be determined by the workers and employers on an equal basis.” When asked if the goal of attaining this equality near, the Kumiai member responded, “There is a long way to go.”
Magandang araw sa inyo Lahat membro ng Tozen Nandito tyo para ipahayag sa inyo Lahat sa satin pag ka panalo sa CBA- kolekta subasta contrata sa lokal na fuso kudo kompanya ng makuha natin ang mga Ilan demand ng katulad ng parehas na bayad kay verly ng membro ng Tozen from minimum wage na 960¥hr hangang 1250¥hr at pag enroll sa membro ng Tozen sa shakai hoken Pag sang ayon sa kapangyarihan ng haras sa loob ng kompanya at pag sang ayon sa pag sakay ni Fred sa forkclip at balang araw c ryu din Maraming salamat
The heroine utters this line at the climax of every episode of a TV drama series currently airing on Saturday nights, “Miss Devil” (“Devil of Human Resources”).
The setting is Kyoa Fire Insurance. Out of nowhere, a leggy beauty with sharp eyes and even sharper eyeliner arrives on the scene. The firm’s president reportedly headhunted her to overhaul corporate culture at Kyoa. Rumor has it that Mako Tsubaki made her name in the U.S. as a “termination consultant,” moving from place to place and firing people with outrageous abandon, cruelty and callousness (not unlike the character played by George Clooney in the 2009 film “Up in the Air”).
Miss Devil has a past shrouded in mystery, and employees are terrified of her — particularly one new hire, Hiroshi Saito. He is moved to a department whose sole mission is to find employees to downsize.
Each episode drops another crumb on a trail that seems to lead to some dark secret lurking in Tsubaki and the firm’s past, a secret that the final episode will surely reveal.
Famed actress Nanao (who prefers to go by one name) plays the main role. A former “race queen” (a Japanese term for grid girl, brolly dolly, or pit babe, i.e. a promotional model that hangs around at motor racing events), Nanao, at 172 cm, is quite tall for a Japanese woman — taller than many men. People say she is “nine heads tall,” and that is no exaggeration. What a stunning figure she has! And how intimidating it would be to stand next to her (I’m only 152 cm). We can understand why she was cast to play this cold-blooded ice queen.
The devil enlists the young Hiroshi to decide who should be fired next. In real life it makes no sense to target new hires for dismissal, but this is TV drama world, so they do. Incidentally, some fans have gleefully detected an S&M theme with the young, cute and shy Hiroshi juxtaposed against the tall, super-mini-skirted older woman/dominatrix.
OK, OK, you’re right: A TV drama is, at the end of the day, nothing more than mind-candy entertainment. Maybe it doesn’t even deserve to be contemplated or analyzed. Perhaps it’s my occupational hazard, but whenever I see a drama about labor issues, I cannot help but think about these things.
Blaming the victim
Although each standalone episode tackles tough issues facing workers today, the last scene of each episode destroys any semblance of authenticity as Miss Devil struts in her high heels onto the scene to thwart the villain and save the day.
The seven episodes broadcast thus far have included the following storylines:
A woman whose husband has terminal cancer is being sexually harassed by her boss. She needs the job to pay her husband’s medical bills, so she endures it.
A middle manager in his 40s must clean up the mess left by a young man in his 20s who spends all his time enjoying himself (heaven forbid) due to the company’s new no-overtime policy. His unfinished work ends up on others’ desks. The middle-aged man’s frustration eventually explodes.
A pregnant worker is exploited by her male boss to showcase the company’s woke attitude when it comes to women. She begs her boss to “let” her quit, but he refuses, so as to protect the firm’s we-don’t-commit-maternity-harassment reputation.
So who in the above episodes got the ax? (Warning! Spoilers begin here:) The woman whose husband has terminal cancer; the man in his 40s who cleans up his irresponsible junior’s mess; and — you guessed it — the pregnant woman.
So why do these workers who did nothing wrong — who were, in fact, being victimized — get fired? Young Hiroshi wonders the same thing and asks her directly.
Fortunately, Tsubaki clears up any confusion. The employee whose husband has cancer, for example, had fraudulently misrepresented her performance and even forged contracts in order to increase her wages. Tsubaki knew it (somehow) from the very beginning. The woman, now exposed, turns away and sobs quietly. Tsubaki faces her and says, “You have the right to quit this company,” then lays a pen and paper on the desk. The weeping woman writes “Resignation notice.”
The woman’s sexual harasser boss doesn’t get away scot-free, though. He tries to hug Tsubaki. She says deadpan: “You do this (sexual harassment) again, and you’ll get even worse that what you’re about to get.” And with that, in her high heels, she delivers a perfect roundhouse kick to the boss.
Young Hiroshi goes and meets the woman some time after her resignation, expecting her to be depressed. But in fact, she’s quite relieved. She had shocked herself by going as far as to commit fraud to pay her husband’s medical bills, but now she was free of that and free of the sexual harassment she had endured — and free to spend what little remaining time she had with her ill husband. (No mention is made of how the bills are now getting paid despite no wage income.) Hiroshi sees the joy in the woman’s face and realizes that Miss Devil is in fact a heroine.
The other stories are similar: Each firing has some deeper purpose that in the end benefits the hapless victim. This authoritarian lesson boils down to “It’s for your own good” and “I know what’s good for you more than you do yourself.” In each case, Miss Devil delivers the liberating line deadpan: “You have the right to resign from this company.”
Firing is your friend
What the heck? She roundhouses the bad guy but drives his victim out of the company? Yet each time she fires an employee or pressures an employee to resign, the ordeal is portrayed as a good deed and even a kindness to the victim.
She’s unreal — a cardboard cutout superhero, a female Ultraman or Power Ranger. The show’s writers insinuate that this “ax woman” is the only one who can expose the injustices and bullying happening at the company, and that her cruel persona is necessary to give her the opening to fight the good fight.
I cannot accept this whole premise. Of course, workers have the right to resign. But that choice is up to the individual’s free will, rather than something they should be pressured into. Another right is the right to continue to work at a workplace. Leaving is not the only solution to every job-related problem.
Each problem must be solved at the workplace, among workers. Tsubaki lacks that imagination. She sees — and we are asked to see — separation as the cure-all for workplace blues. Many viewers might wish a Miss Devil worked at their company to deal justice to a hated boss, but one person alone cannot create a good workplace environment.
Another premise of this drama that I find unnatural is that the fired (or forced-to-resign) employees all come to feel thankful for Tsubaki’s tough love. Few firings result in such happy endings in real life, in my experience. It is difficult even to fight against unfair dismissals. The show’s creators are perhaps trying to brainwash management and workers alike into thinking that dismissals make people happy.
There’s also the gender issue. Tsubaki does a great job in smashing the fixed role assigned to women in Japanese companies: smiling, polite, thoughtful. She shuns all politesse and tatemae (pretense) and represents the polar opposite of the blushing coquette image that many women in Japan cultivate so well. Some viewers may want to emulate her calculated cool. I can understand this, too.
But she is the enemy of her co-workers at Kyoa Fire. Recall that she was headhunted precisely to help heads roll. She is an outsider coming in to rip apart the workforce at the behest of management.
Another assumption is that the women who were already in the company (and not exposed to transmogrifying foreign/U.S. influence) are helpless without the aid of this outside heroine. The drama’s loud, obnoxious message flies in the face of the reality that women can and do band together in solidarity to improve conditions at workplaces every day. Together, these women hold the real power, not one tough cookie of a superheroine.