False pretenses tread on dignity of employees
Santaro Fuji, the main character of the four-frame comic strip "Fuji Santaro" that The Asahi Shimbun formerly ran, was a rank-and-file employee who never got promoted. In one episode, he was finally up for promotion, but there were no vacant posts. Having been informally told by his boss that his title would be "temporarily acting tentative assistant subsection chief," Santaro expresses indignation.
Who was it who made the sarcastic remark that "the longer the title, the less important the job"? In that regard, the title "branch manager" is formal. But let us assume that the post comes with no authority commensurate with the title. Yet, it is regarded as a managerial post for which no overtime is paid. I am sure even Santaro would refuse to accept it, saying that being a rank-and-file employee is better.
Such "managerial posts in name only" are spreading in the food service and convenience store industries. The Labor Standards Law stipulates that employers are not obliged to pay overtime or holiday work allowances to employees in managerial posts. Since they work long hours virtually for free, the practice provides an easy way for management to cut labor costs with a single letter of appointment.
A 46-year-old manager of an outlet of McDonald's Co. (Japan) sued the company, saying the practice is illegal. The court recognized his claim and ordered the company to pay him about 7.5 million yen, including overtime pay. According to the manager, he had no days off and worked up to 137 hours a month in overtime. The conditions far exceed the line over which death from overwork can occur.
Among Aesop's Fables is the story about the stomach and feet. The feet complain to the stomach that it simply sits there enjoying something delicious that is brought to it even though it cannot move without them. The stomach retorts by saying the feet would waste away unless it provided them with nourishment.
The stomach's argument is close to what companies are saying today. If employees work hard and make money for their employers, nourishment will naturally flow to them, they say. It may be true to some extent. But if false pretenses that threaten workers' human dignity prevail, the argument becomes hollow.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 30(IHT/Asahi: January 31,2008)