The cost of convenience in Japan: when foreign students work instead of study

It’s midnight at the convenience store I often patronize near my home in Tokyo’s central Shinjuku district. The store’s open all day and night, 365 days a year.

There is one man I’ve seen quite a bit of lately — behind the counter, stocking shelves, carrying heavy boxes, cleaning, cooking food, ringing up purchases, barristering, giving out raffle tickets, and always using polite, respectful Japanese, from irasshaimase (welcome) to arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much).

Once, he ran down the street after my husband, who had just left the store. It wasn’t because this customer had shoplifted. God forbid. No, his addled brain had simply forgotten to collect the change (about ¥40), and this superclerk thought it right to leave his post and bolt down the street to hand it to him.

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KYODO

Overtime deal marks total capitulation by labor

Full disclosure: I am the president of Tozen Union. Last October we joined the Japanese Trade Union Federation, known as Rengo.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that this month I lambaste Rengo’s recent decision to agree to a policy I believe will endanger the health and lives of workers in Japan. Criticizing our own tribe is never easy and leaves a sour taste, but if we cannot criticize ourselves, we have no right to criticize others.

Those who read my column know well that one of Japan’s most dire labor problems is the practice of working from early morning until late at night. Long hours can and do kill.

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KYODO

労働組合は「過労死」の増産に手を貸すのか? ~「残業上限月100時間」という狂気

レイバーペインズを読んでくださっている皆さんなら、日本の労働問題の最たるものが「長時間労働」、「過労死(自殺)」であることは重々承知だろう。にもかかわらず、ことあるごとに、労働法は時代遅れだとして、労働法の規制緩和をどんどん推し進めてきたのが他ならぬ現在の安倍政権なのだが、その安倍政権がなぜか去年から、残業時間の「上限」を法律で定めるべきだと主張し始めた。

このことは、政府がこれまでのバリバリの「規制緩和」から、「規制強化」路線へ180度方針転換したのか、とずいぶん騒がれたが、疑い深い私は、これには裏があるにちがいない、という気持ちが拭い去れなかった(このことは、2016年12月25日のLabor Painsでも述べている)。安倍首相は現在の財界トップである榊原定征(さかきばら さだゆき)経団連会長と親密な関係であり、自らの外遊にも連れていき、世界各国で日本企業を首相みずからが“トップセールス”するのだと自慢げに言っている。安倍首相が、自分の大切な「お友達」が多い経済界の締め付けを強めるようなことを本気でやるとはとても思えなかったのだ。

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残業ヤダ!って言ったらクビ?!

昔から今に至るまで、テレビドラマにはいろいろな「お決まりのシーン」がある。たとえば、朝、慌てて家を飛び出すヒロイン、通りすがりの男性に思いっきりぶつかり「あ、ごめんなさい~」と顔を赤らめながら立ち去ったときに、うっかりアクセサリーを落としてしまう。そして数日後、たまたま入ったカフェ。向かい側に座っているのは・・・あ、あのときの・・・そして、ロマンスが始まる、というパターン。(注:ここで落とすのはアクセサリーに限らず、財布や定期券などもポピュラー)

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Japan’s culture and courts need to get with the program on overtime

TV series have for decades now overused a broad range of formulaic plot devices. Let me give you an example:
The heroine scrambles to get out of the house in the morning on her way to work. She runs down the street only to collide with a man walking the other way. Blushing, she showers him with apologies and in all the kerfuffle, a piece of jewelry slips off to the ground unnoticed. Days later she runs into him (figuratively this time) in a chic cafe, and romance brews. For variety, replace jewelry with wallet, train pass or other item; stir and bake.

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‘Zero Overtime Bill’ is the thin end of the wedge for workers’ rights

Takuboku Ishikawa died in 1910 at the tender age of 26.  But before he left this world, he penned the following famous tanka:

働けど
働けどなお
我が暮らし
楽にならざり
じつと手をみる

Hatarakedo
Hatarakedonao
waga kurashi
raku ni narazari
jitto te wo miru

Staring at my hands
I toil and toil
yet my life gets no easier

Bewildered by his predicament, Takuboku found himself staring at the hands that connected him both physically and spiritually to his work.

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Scant legal justification for unpaid overtime

In principle, a work week is supposed to total 40 hours, divided into eight hours per day. Any work beyond this limit is only possible with prior agreement between the employer and employees, and is subject to overtime payment. If overtime work is done with the understanding of the employer but without an explicit request, the employee can still file a request for unpaid overtime wages.