A group of Vietnamese technical interns whose former employer failed to pay them a total of ¥27 million ($194,000) for overtime Wednesday exposed the illegally long hours they were made to work and called for the money to be paid.
Koshimizu Hifukukogyo in Seiyo in the western prefecture of Ehime, where the women in their 20s to 40s were employed, indicated on Nov. 7 that it will declare bankruptcy after initially saying it would gradually pay between ¥2.2 million and ¥2.6 million to each trainee, including compensation for late payment.
According to work records from the technical trainees, it was common for them to work in excess of 100 hours in overtime each month, an illegally high amount.
Their tough working conditions led them in August to approach a nonprofit organization supporting Vietnamese people in Japan. All 11 left the firm on Nov. 4, and they are set to start new jobs at a textiles firm in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan.
Speaking at a news conference, 32-year-old Doan Thi Thu Nga said she was "sad we're being treated unfairly" and added that "whatever happens I want them to pay us." Jiho Yoshimizu, a supporter from the NPO, said it will "continue to work to have their human rights protected."
Koshimizu Hifukukogyo had been contracted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to make medical gowns during the coronavirus pandemic. Its lawyer said the company has total liabilities of around ¥60 million.
Japan established the Technical Intern Training Program in 1993 to transfer knowledge and skills to developing countries, but the program has been criticized as providing cover for companies to import cheap labor from across Asia.
As of the end of June, there were around 328,000 people residing in Japan as technical trainees, according to the Immigration Services Agency.