Union helps Saitama convenience store part-timers recoup unpaid wages

Kyodo, Staff Report

High school students and others working as part-timers at convenience stores in Saitama Prefecture have recently won a promise from their employer to receive unpaid wages.

The victory for the part-timers organized by the Tokyo-based labor union, BlackarbeitUnion, raises the alarm for store operators that are accused of exploiting workers by taking advantage of their lack of knowledge about labor issues.

The union lends support to those fighting “black baito,” or exploitative part-time jobs, amid claims that more firms are underpaying and overworking students to cut costs.

Under the agreement reached between Conbini Y&N, a franchise of the Circle K Sunkus convenience-store chain based in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, and some 70 employees, including high schoolers and other part-timers, the franchise will pay a total of ¥5 million in two years’ unpaid salary to the part-timers.

According to BlackarbeitUnion, the labor dispute was started by an 18-year-old high school boy in Saitama Prefecture who wondered if he was being treated fairly by his employer.

He took part in a lecture on labor laws provided by the union last fall, where he was enlightened and decided to pursue fair treatment, the union said.

The dispute centered on Conbini Y&N’s alleged attempt to cut corners by excluding work hours under 15 minutes from salary calculations. For example, if an employee logs 9 hours and 14 minutes of work, the 14 minutes don’t count.

In the latest agreement, the franchise agreed to calculate work hours by the minute and reflect the exact hours in wages.

BlackarbeitUnion also accused Circle K Sunkus of introducing the abusive time-management system, saying its franchises simply use the system to calculate pay.

But a Circle K Sunkus spokesman dismissed the claim, saying the chain has encouraged its franchises to calculate exact hours rather than rounding them off.