The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) for the first time made public a list of “black companies” that have been referred to the public prosecutors office for violation of laws and regulations related to the labor standards. Experts, however, view the list as the “tip of the iceberg” and call for expanding the list of problematic companies.
The ministry posted the list on its homepage on May 10 as part of efforts by the Headquarters for the Reduction of Long Working Hours.
The headquarters has held a meeting once a year on average since the first meeting in October 2014. In December last year, when public attention was being paid to the case of the suicide from overwork of a 24-year-old woman, a new hire at leading advertisement company Dentsu, the headquarters put together “emergency measures for reducing karoshi [death from overwork],” which included making and releasing the list of black companies.
According to the MHLW, on the list are 334 companies that have been referred to public prosecutors offices after October last year for violation of the Labor Standard Act, Industrial Safety and Health Act, and Minimum Wage Act. The list includes such information as regional labor bureaus that supervise the listed companies, companies’ addresses, laws violated, and details of violation.
The list released 11 cases under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Labor Bureau, 28 under the Aichi Labor Bureau, 20 under the Osaka Labor Bureau and 19 under the Fukuoka Labor Bureau. Many cases are related to insufficient safety measures at construction sites by small- and medium-sized companies. The list includes some well-known companies, among them, Dentsu, a divisional company of Panasonic, Japan Post, and Morinaga Milk.
The ministry will update the list every month, adding fresh violations that have newly been referred to public prosecutors office while deleting old companies from the list after one year. “Hopefully, the list will motivate the companies to comply with the goal of zero karoshi cases,” said an MHLW official.
“Most Evil Corporation of the Year” Award is a well-known non-governmental program in which a committee comprising specialists in labor issues nominates black companies every year. The committee selects companies whose illegal nature has been objectively proved through civil trials or cases involving work-related injury or illness recognized by the Labor Standard Inspection Office. The committee members say the MHLW has too few criteria for putting a company on the list.
“Most companies nominated for “Most Evil Corporation of the Year” are not on MHLW’s list,” said one of the committee members. “The people have an image of a black company as one that doesn’t pay overtime and causes karoshi from long working hours, but they are rarely referred to public prosecutors as criminal cases.”
Most actions taken by the MHLW to correct long working hours are instances of administrative guidance such as notification of a need for improvement. “Many companies receive an MHLW notification but the ministry does not put them on the list,” said the committee member. “The list neither helps improve conditions in which young workers are exploited nor functions as an effective tool for correcting problems.”
“Companies referred to the public prosecutors office for not paying wages or making employees work long hours are those not following the MHLW’s repeated administrative guidance,” said lawyer Ryo Sasaki. “Although putting such companies on the list may put pressure on them, the MHLW puts only a portion of violating companies on the list. It is only the tip of the iceberg.”
“The MHLW puts extremely malicious companies on the list only to demonstrate that it’s taking a new measure,” pointed out Professor Mieko Takenobu at Wako University. “In order to make the list more meaningful for young workers, I suggest the ministry make public black companies that have received administrative guidance at least three times by taking advantage of information only available to the ministry and labor standard inspection offices,”(Abridged)