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Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Toyota to increase overtime payments after court ruling

AP , TOKYO

Toyota will boost overtime pay to their assembly line workers for their voluntary efforts to improve production quality, the company said yesterday, in the latest effort in Japan to quell growing criticism about a workaholic corporate culture.

The decision follows a court ruling that found a Toyota worker, who collapsed at a plant, had died of overwork, or karoshi, Such rulings are surprisingly common in Japan and allow the family of the deceased to collect government compensation for work-related deaths.

Japanese tend to work long hours because many companies demand worker loyalty in exchange for relative job stability. Workers’ putting in free overtime is so common a widely recognized phrase describes the practice, saabisu zangyo, or “service overtime.” But public criticism about free overtime has been growing.

Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s No. 1 automaker, has a sterling reputation for innovative production methods, called kaizen, that rely on ideas from their workers to cut costs and raise on-the-job efficiency.

Toyota auto workers routinely take part in voluntary meetings called “QC Circle,” short for quality control circle, that focus on improving product quality and manufacturing methods.

Starting next month, Toyota will more fully compensate workers for such meetings, which are outside their shift hours, Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said in Tokyo.

The Asahi Shimbun said previous QC overtime pay had been limited to two hours a month.

The Nagoya District Court ruled in November that a 30-year-old Toyota auto worker had died of overwork, sometimes doing more than 100 hours of overtime a month, some of that in QC Circle work, working weekends and holidays, Japanese media reports said.

The ruling found that QC Circle work should be counted as overtime, the reports said.

Also see: Lowering the tempo

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