WHICH Philippine employer should be awarded as the most evil to workers, at least for this year?
In Japan, advertising giant Dentsu Inc. has been given the 2016 Black Company Award, a.k.a. the Most Evil Corporation of the Year. A group of journalists and rights activists gave Dentsu this year’s raspberry award (the worst of its kind) due to its “culture of overwork, discrimination and harassment,” according to a report by The Japan Times.
Dentsu has been blamed for the suicide of 24-year old Matsuri Takahashi on Christmas day 2015 and another 24-year old, Ichiro Oshima, who died in 1991. Another reported case was the 2013 death of an employee who previously contracted a serious illness. These three cases were reportedly “induced by overwork,” mostly unpaid overtime work averaging 100 hours a month.
Since 1951, Dentsu has urged its workers to follow to the core a management policy that when translated directly from its original Japanese version, reads as follows: “Never give up on your task, not even if you die, until you accomplish it.”
Dentsu’s offices were raided by authorities last October and carted away incriminating documents one week after Japan’s Cabinet approved the country’s first government white paper on “karoshi” – the ‘death by overwork’ phenomenon that has “silently blighted corporate Japan since the late 1960s,” according to Financial Times.
Karoshi was given global prominence when the term was added in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002.
Tadashi Ishii, Dentsu’s president, says he is resigning next month to take full responsibility for the death of Takahashi. It got me thinking: If Japan is known for its harakiri corporate executives, amiable trade unions (for its peaceful labor strikes during lunch breaks) and low-key but non-combative lawyers can put up a Black Company Award to shame an errant ad giant like Dentsu, then why can’t our own street-clogging, mass rally-loving militant unions and boisterous labor lawyers do the same thing in the Philippines?
If only some people would remove their blinders, they would see the many local employers who could be categorized as far worse violators of labor standards than Dentsu. The only difference is that these companies don’t induce people to work several weeks before their overwork-induced funeral.
Wittingly or unwittingly (depending on where you’re seated), they do it by batch, as what happened to the infamous Kentex fire that killed at least 74 people. Rappler reports that footwear maker Kentex had sweatshop-like working conditions and many of its workers were paid on a per-piece-rate rather than the prescribed minimum wage, and yet they’re employed by labor contractors.
Many Philippine-based employers rob workers of their dignity for decent work, if we can borrow the term used by the International Labor Organization. Filipino workers toil for eight hours a day, but every payday, they get too little take-home pay. If we use ILO’s standards, many Filipino employers will simply go down in disgrace, no matter how they try to astound us with their Corporate Social Responsibility programs.
They circumvent our laws on job security, which has given rise to the perpetuation of “endo” practices and other forms of labor-only contracting, among other sinister practices. Major companies create sister-firms under the guise of “shared services” as a corporate veil to dodge payment of the workers’ seniority rights. Many workers are forced to work in unsafe factories and unsanitary workplaces, just like what had been discovered at Kentex.
In God we trust, everyone must bring data to the authorities. Surely, we can get the data filed by disgruntled workers from the labor department and their allied agencies. The higher the number of filed cases, the more chances of errant companies winning the award. Also, another source of incriminating evidence against these shameless employers are the uncollected premiums due the Social Security System.
Another thing, many of these bad employers employ more “endo” workers than regulars by as much as an 80:20 percent ratio.
The trouble is that in this country, the labor department appears to be overly-friendly with employers. One evidence of this is the fact that our labor law compliance system was designed not to penalize errant employers, even if they’ve already been caught red-handed, but merely to encourage them to follow the law, as though they are not aware of that responsibility.
The question is – why are we too soft in dealing with such bad employers? Are we missing something?
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.