Thousands of Japanese workers killed by overwork

This video is called Japanese workers at US bases on strike-Report-EN-FRANCE24.

From the LabourStart website:

Dying from overwork in ‘the Land of Karoshi

The article that won the first International Labour Organization Journalistic Prize

Can overwork kill you by driving you to suicide? It can in the land of Karoshi. By the word “Karoshi”, the Japanese mean “death from overwork, a serious and profound issue in a country where more than 5,000 suicides per year are the result of depression caused by overwork.

Japan has the highest proportion of employees working more than 50 hours per week. However, after too many victims of Karoshi, Japanese workers are starting to claim their rights and families are starting to claim compensation.

The Japanese journalist Misako Hida investigated the issue of Karoshi from the perspective of international labour standards concerning hours and conditions of work. “When it comes to working hours in Japan, nothing in the way of international labour standards exists, and in recent years an increasing number of temporary workers have been forced to work as long as full-time employees do”, writes Hida.

The National Labor Committee (NLC), a New York-based human rights group, has been investigating working conditions at Toyota Motor Corp., and the labor used to produce its best-selling Prius hybrid cars: here.

Similar situations exist in other countries, like in France.

For this item, I linked to the LabourStart website. I have no problem with the professed aim of that site, bringing news on trade unionism worldwide; which LabourStart does mainly by linking to articles in mainly corporate media on trade unions. LabourStart, by the way, is not officially part of any trade union organization.

However, there is a problem with the founder of this site, Eric Lee. He is both a United States and Israeli national. That does not need to be a problem at all, since many people in both countries disagree with their governments’ policies. However, Mr Lee has a record of advocating on LabourStart wars waged by both governments. While trade unions should never support wars, which hurt working people most.

In this way, Mr Lee supported the 1999 war against Yugoslavia. Later, as George W. Bush started the war against Iraq, Eric Lee advocated that the Left should support that war, from fear of becoming isolated by not jumping on the bandwagon of that presumably successful war.

Well, we know that the war and the occupation turned out to be only “successful” in killing and torturing even more Iraqis than under Saddam Hussein, oppressing Iraqi trade unions, ruining the world economy, making many people hungry, etc.

Quite some people who in 2003 supported George W. Bush’s war have by now apologized or half-apologized for that. Eric Lee, as far as I know, is not among those individuals. From a comment by Lee on the 2008 United States Presidential elections (especially about Senator Edwards, the candidate favoured by Lee; who, contrary to Lee as far as I know, did apologize for his initial support of the Iraq war), it might seem, very indirectly, that he by now no longer supports the war. Then, why not write about that change, at least as extensively as the earlier pro war items? The Internet is big, so, if I missed this, my apologies to Eric Lee.

By the way, if the pro Bush war propaganda in the media would have worked much more strongly than it did in practice, and people on the Left opposing the war would indeed have become “isolated”; let us suppose that opposition to the Iraq war would have been reduced to just one individual; then that still would not have changed the bloody facts about the war. That one individual left would have been right.

Is there an alternative to LabourStart? Yes, there is LabourNet. The problem with this is that, as far as know, only their site in Turkey has RSS facilities.

4 thoughts on “Thousands of Japanese workers killed by overwork

  1. There is no excuse for war crimes!

    Fellow Worker Lee,

    I wanted to start off by saying that I am a regular reader of your column in the Industrial Worker and a frequent visitor to LabourStart. I am dismayed that you are defending the indefensible actions of the Israeli military, rather than aknowledging the human rights catastrophe of F-16s dropping tons of explosives onto the most densely populated place on earth. Gaza is a ghetto in the classical sense, home to some 800,000 children. What Israel is doing is collective punishment, which is a war crime.

    This most recent pre-election massacre isn’t about Hamas or quassam attacks. It is about winning an election and reinflating the shamed ego of the Israeli military which was defeated in Lebanon in 2006.

    The occupation of Gaza never ended – Gazans have been suffering under a brutal, almost total shut off of water, fuel, food, and medicine since Sharon’s “disengagement.” FW Lee’s clumsy attempts to tear down leftist straw men, as well as his strained historical comparisons fall on their face. Gazans are not Nazis or Germans. Israelis aren’t the British being bombed in WW2.

    I am curious, why do you feel the need to defend Israel’s blatent violations of international law? What is next, an editorial condemning Israeli draft resistors?

    As an American Jew, as a former Zionist, and as an industrial unionist, I have been silent for too long. I can’t be silent in the face of this latest conflict, which is not a war, but is a massacre.

    I urge all unionists to educate themselves about the situation and to have the moral courage to stand against the war crimes being perpetrated by Israel.

    Posted by: Clayton Levine | January 3, 2009 08:03 PM


  2. McDonald’s worker dies of ‘overwork’: officials

    (AFP) – 13 hours ago

    TOKYO — A store manager with hamburger chain McDonald’s in Japan who died of a brain haemorrhage was a victim of “karoshi” or death by overwork, a regional labour office said Wednesday.

    The woman, employed at an outlet in Yokohama near Tokyo and reportedly aged 41, had done more than 80 hours of overtime per month before she collapsed in October 2007 during a training programme at a different store.

    She died in hospital three days later, said an official at the Kanagawa Labour Bureau, which oversees the Yokohama region.

    “We determined her work caused the illness,” said the official in charge of work-related compensation, a decision that makes her dependent family members eligible to receive a public pension.

    “She had early symptoms such as headaches some three weeks before she collapsed, and we presume she already had the illness at that point.”

    McDonald’s Co. (Japan) Ltd. declined to comment on the case, with a spokesman saying only that the company had not been contacted by authorities and had not confirmed the decision by itself.

    The woman had performed more than 80 hours of overtime a month on average for the six months before she suffered early symptoms, although she had a vacation shortly before she collapsed in October, the official said.

    Japan’s welfare and labour ministry investigates whether deaths are caused by excessive work if the victim had performed monthly overtime of 80 hours or more for the preceding six months, or 100 hours for the previous one month.

    The number of deaths, usually through strokes or heart attacks, in Japan that are classified as “karoshi” has been hovering at around 150 annually in recent years, according to ministry data.

    McDonald’s suffered a blow to its image when a Tokyo court last year ordered it to pay compensation of more than 70,000 dollars to an employee who had performed unpaid overtime for several years.

    The plaintiff, who had carried the job title of store manager, had earlier said he sometimes worked more than 100 hours of unpaid overtime in a month.

    Japan’s labour laws do not oblige companies to pay overtime to workers in managerial posts. McDonald’s argued their store chiefs have a say in management decisions, but the court rejected that argument.

    Copyright © 2009 AFP


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