National

Gripes over unpaid overtime growing along with economy

As the economy improves, more full-time workers are complaining of being forced to work overtime without pay.

Koji Morioka, a professor at Kansai University, estimated employees worked a total of 27.33 trillion yen worth of unpaid overtime in 2002, doing work equal to 8.18 million full-time jobs.

“I work from 8 a.m. to midnight every day. My overtime is 300 hours each month, and I can take only one holiday in six months,” said a 34-year-old bank employee in a telephone call to the Japan Association of Labor Lawyers in June.

“I work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., but the overtime pay is only for one hour a day. I can take no paid holidays,” a 27-year-old supermarket worker told the association. “The rate of divorce among our company employees is 90 percent.”

The association’s 27 offices across the country received 708 similar complaints from full-time workers in June, up from 440 calls in December, indicating that workers’ problems are growing in the face of the burgeoning economic recovery.

Ichiro Natsume, a lawyer and deputy chief of the association’s secretariat, said: “The recent trend in telephone calls is the increase in consultations about excessively long working hours. Calls from young people have been increasing, as have those from parents and wives.”

Behind the extremely long working hours are staff layoffs and workload increases, he said.

Full-time workers suffer further because part-time and temporary staff are given only limited responsibilities, he said.

The spread of unpaid overtime is a sign of a deteriorating labor environment, analysts say.

Last year, Labor Standards Inspection offices nationwide ordered 18,511 small-business owners to pay employees for extra hours worked, up 1,500 from the previous year for the sixth consecutive year of increase.

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