Tour operator raided over labor law violations after deadly bus crash

JIJI

Authorities have raided the offices of the operator of a bus involved in a deadly crash last Friday in Nagano prefecture on suspicion of labor law violations.

The vehicle was carrying mainly young people and was headed from Tokyo to a ski resort when it plunged off a road after apparently failing to take a sharp curve in the early hours near the town of Karuizawa. Fifteen people died, including the driver and co-driver, and 26 were injured.

The raid by the labor ministry’s labor standards supervision office in Ome, western Tokyo, came as part of an investigation into ESP, which is based in nearby Hamura.

The labor office plans to file complaints against ESP with prosecutors, rather than issuing customary administrative guidance, because the alleged violations are considered malicious, officials said.

An inspection of ESP by transport ministry officials shortly after the crash on Friday uncovered problems such as having drivers work longer than the legal limit.

The company has not concluded mandatory labor-management agreements on overtime work with its drivers, according to ESP President Misaku Takahashi.

A representative of the company admitted it may not have operated by the rules. There are concerns about whether its practices met with legal requirements, Takato Yamamoto, a manager of ESP’s sales department, told reporters on Thursday.