Exploiting laborers harms more than goodwill

“We are like rental products that are shipped to clients as needed.” These words, spoken by a 39-year-old man who barely gets by as a dispatch day laborer, appeared on The Asahi Shimbun’s lifestyle page. What business makes a man in his prime utter such a self-deprecating comment?

Goodwill Inc., a major temp agency, is set to be dissolved. The company received a summary indictment for dispatching temp workers to a client, knowing that it would then dispatch them to other firms, an illegal practice known as double dispatching.

It is also being sued by workers in a group lawsuit for questionable deductions of part of their pay. Apparently, the company’s “goodwill” stops at its name.

Day laborers who register with temp agencies as dispatch workers are sent to various work sites on a daily basis with a single cellphone message.

The method can be likened to a workforce small-lot sale, where double dispatching is the resale of that workforce. Agencies take advantage of the vulnerability of “jobless” workers and use them as a flexible workforce they can “hire and fire” at will. They also send people to dangerous work sites without informing them of the risks.

Some individuals may see this arrangement as a way to earn pocket money on days off. But given that workers are being treated as expendable resources, it is natural for others to call for a ban on the day labor dispatch system itself. There is no way an economy supported by exploitation of the weak can continue indefinitely.