Labor must together fight ‘name-only’ ploys

“Eliminate long work hours! Store managers in name only deserve dignity.” Such calls were heard loud and clear at a recent rally in Tokyo attended by more than 200 people.

In fact, there was such a large turnout, there weren’t enough seats for everyone.

Branch managers of outlets of chain stores such as McDonald’s Co. (Japan), menswear retailer Konaka Co. and Ninety-nine Plus Inc., which runs Shop 99 convenience stores, all spoke at the event. They described the long hours and harsh working conditions that led each of them to stand up for fair treatment and demand redress.

The day after the rally, McDonald’s announced it would pay overtime allowances to managers of stores under its direct management starting in August under a new pay scheme.

It was a hollow victory.

The company, on the other hand, explained that its overall payroll costs won’t rise as it will abolish the store manager allowance. (McDonald’s, however, said later, in June, that it will delay the introduction of the new pay scheme for a couple of years in the face of the objections. It also said it will start paying overtime to store managers in August as pledged).

It’s an old trick, one done by many companies–to manipulate itemized salaries so that employers can seem to rectify nonpayment of overtime work. As long as such sleight-of-hand methods to evade the spirit of the law are tolerated, no one will bother to challenge top executives who don’t pay overtime.