MITO – A Chinese trainee won compensation Friday from a Japanese farm after being underpaid, in what is the latest incident of abuse involving a program often accused of being a cover for importing cheap labor.
The Mito District Court ruled that a father and son who run a farm in Ibaraki Prefecture must pay the Chinese trainee ¥1.99 million ($17,500) for wages owed, and a similar amount as a fine.
The 32-year-old woman started working at the vegetable farm a month after arriving in Japan in September 2013, according to the complaint.
The court recognized that her overtime pay was ¥400 per hour, calculating that she bundled 200 bunches of Japanese basil an hour and was paid ¥2 per bunch.
The ruling said that she worked every day until 9 or 10 p.m. and occasionally until midnight.
The wage paid to the trainee was far lower than the minimum hourly wage of around ¥700 at that time set by local labor officials.
“A ¥400 hourly wage is wrong and there are many similar cases in Japan,” said Shoichi Ibuski, her defense lawyer and expert on foreign labor issues.
“It is the reality for trainees that they cannot claim their rights or protest,” he said, criticizing the vegetable farm for taking advantage of the situation.
The court dismissed the woman’s damages claim over alleged sexual harassment at the farm, and against the foreign trainee supervisory organization that arranged her employment there.
The training program was introduced in 1993 with the goal of transferring skills to developing countries.