National

Nominees announced for Japan’s sixth annual Black Company Awards

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Hollywood’s bad-film awards are not much more than a joke.

But the nominees for Japan’s Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award, also known as the Black Company Award, highlighting the ugly side of corporate Japan and its culture, have nothing to laugh about.

A group of journalists and rights activists on Monday announced nine nominees for the label of “black company,” or a business with exploitative practices that has resulted in a worker’s death and whose case has been referred to prosecutors.

Among this year’s nominees for most evil firm is public broadcaster NHK. Last month, NHK admitted that the death of a 31-year-old reporter in 2013 was linked to her working conditions. Miwa Sado, who died of heart failure, logged 159 hours of overtime and took only two days off in the month leading up to her death.

“This tendency can be observed every year, but (illegal) overtime surfaced as this year’s leading theme amid the government’s efforts to reform Japan’s working culture,” Ryo Sasaki, lawyer and member of the award committee, told a news conference in Tokyo. “This subject made the headlines numerous times over the past few months and these nominations reflect this trend.”

The committee also nominated Taisei Corp., the main contractor for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium, and its subcontractor Sanshin Corp., whose 23-year-old male employee at the site committed suicide after logging around 190 overtime hours.

Sasaki, who works as a lawyer specializing in employment abuse, added that the committee wanted to highlight the exploitation that takes place during company training programs, “which are hard for the victims’ families to prove in court.”

He referred to the case of a 22-year-old Zeria Pharmaceutical Co. worker whose depression escalated after he was forced to confess his past experiences of being a victim of bullying, which led him to suicide.

Other nominees are: Panasonic Corp., Niigata City General Hospital, supermarket chain Inageya Co., homebuilder Daiwa House Industry Co., moving firm Hikkoshisha Co. and Japan’s leading door-to-door courier firm Yamato Transport Co.

Such exploitative and illicit work practices came under scrutiny following the December 2015 suicide of a 24-year-old female employee at advertising giant Dentsu Inc., prompting the government to explore the nation’s labor policies.

For the first time in May, the labor ministry published a list of hundreds of companies that received warnings from the ministry due to excessive overtime or other reported labor violations.

The award is unrelated to the government’s efforts. The grand winner will be chosen by the organizing committee, while the Citizens’ Award will go to an organization based on the results of an online vote. The winners of the 2017 Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award will be announced on Dec. 23 and will be presented a copy of a labor law dictionary. However, all nominees in recent years refused to accept the prize.