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Overtime pay elusive to most Okinawan workers

Date Posted: 2003-09-27

Most Okinawan companies do not pay overtime to their workers, although they are required to do so. The Okinawa Labor Standard Bureau report came to light recently that Okinawa Chubu Electric Power Co. had not paid overtime to a third of its workforce, some 1,700 employees. The company finally agreed to settle after the Labor Standard Bureau “advised” it three times, and coughed up ¥930 million to 650 of its workers who had not been paid overtime since April 2001. The highest paycheck went to an assistant chief, who had racked up enough hours to earn ¥2.23 million.

The Japanese labor standard law stipulates that workers are entitled to overtime pay whenever their workday extends beyond 6 p.m. except when the workers specifically agree to waive their right to overtime pay. Many companies claim that overtime without pay, commonly known as “service overtime work,” is essential to their survival. There are also many service companies that are open only after six in the evening. In Okinawa, some people deliberately seek to work after sundown.

Some say it’s too hot to work in the daytime, that the streets are too crowded, and the traffic is too slow. Many companies in Okinawa have stopped offering full-time positions. More and more workers find themselves working in part-time positions that do not pay overtime, do not offer any benefits such as workers’ insurance, and that allows management to send employees home when there is no work available. That has also lead to a sharp increase in the number of temporary staffing agencies which dispatch workers to companies as they are needed.

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