Seven-Eleven Japan Co. has officially reported that it owes at least 490 million yen (4.5 million dollars) to 30,000 or more employees. The issue is a result of miscalculation problems in the payroll system that failed to pay employees for portions of their overtime work. This affected 8,129 stores, and it was reported that the company even owed an employee 2.8 million yen.
The most infuriating thing is that this issue was discovered all the way back in 2001 after a probe the Labor Standards Inspections Office conducted. However, 7-Eleven did not do anything about it, not even disclose the information afterwards.
18 years. That’s 18 years from when they were told about the issue; and yet, Japan’s biggest convenience store took no action to remediate the problem. Now that Seven-Eleven has disclosed this shocking information, they have taken one of the most ridiculous measures to try to pay those who were affected: the convenience story giant has promised to pay missing wages that occurred before March 2012 as long as employees and former employees show payment records or slips as proof. Mind you that the problem started in the 1970s, when the company was founded.
Understandably, there is already a furor online since people don’t tend to keep records that old. Therefore, 7-Eleven does not seem to truly want or be willing to rectify the issue and provide those unpaid wages.
It’s also been reported that Fumihiko Nagamatsu, the company’s president and who was promoted to that position in April, would voluntarily cut his monthly salary by 10 percent for a mere three months. However, what good does that make if the company itself is not taking the proper actions to ensure it pays all the money it owes?
This act of “mea culpa” ends up looking more like a PR stunt in a year that has been market by huge scrutiny over the company’s practices, corporate culture, and the treatment of its employees.
Dissecting every aspect of this news just makes things worse. It’s not only the 18 sweet years 7-Eleven took to make the news public, or the fact that it owes over 490 million yen. Thinking of all the people that got screwed over since the 70s, and contemplating why such a big mistake in the payroll system had to be “discovered” by a third party after many decades has infuriated locals. How many of those people are already dead? How many were foreigners who returned to their respective countries? How many live in Japan but have no way to show that 7-Eleven underpaid them? The whole thing is a statistical nightmare and a maddening set of events.
Additionally, convenience store employees tend to be among the most mistreated workers in Japan. It is also widely known that a vast number of customers tend to unload their rage and frustrations at people working at convenience stores, treating them as punching bags. If you were to ask someone who currently works or used to work at a convenience store what their worst kind of customer is or was, they would probably say smokers. Many people with experience working at stores like 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson have been yelled at and mistreated by customers who wanted to buy their cigarettes in a matter of seconds. Therefore, employees often have to go through these bad experiences while working difficult schedules and even overtime in order to run the convenience stores for 24 hours (a trend set to change amid Japan’s labor shortage); and all while getting underpaid by Japan’s biggest convenience store giant.
Another thing to consider is Japan’s work culture that sees people work inhumane hours. Working overtime in Japan does not mean putting it an extra hour a week, not even an extra hour a day. People who work overtime basically end up living in their offices. It is not uncommon for certain employees to sleep in their offices after missing their last trains. Just this month, Dentsu Inc. came under fire (AGAIN!) after it received a warning from labor authorities due to their horrendously illegal overtime practices. This time, it was reported that one employee had worked a shocking 156 of overtime in a single month. Dentsu did not learn from what happened in 2015 when Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide because of all her overtime work with the company. At this point, it is becoming evident that Dentsu does not really care about its toxic work culture. 7-Eleven is also under scrutiny because of its corporate practices, and thinking of the long number of hours a day for which employees did not get paid is something that just makes one’s blood boil.
Since 7-Eleven released the statement in December while providing mediocre solutions that do not show true intention to pay those affected, it would be an understatement to say that 7-Eleven was ending 2019 in a low note; and while it’s definitely better to end 2019 in a low note than start 2020 (and a new decade, for that matter) on a bad one, ultimately, 7-Eleven’s actions are not showing true commitment to its current and former employees. Therefore, unless 7-Eleven does something to remediate the situation, the company will also have to start the year with a tarnished public image.
It’s sickening to see just how rotten some companies can be, and the recent developments at 7-Eleven are no exception; and while the newly appointed Nagamatsu is apparently doing his best to tackle the issue by making it public, asking for a small salary decrease (10 percent. HA!) over the next three months (three months? Again, HA!), and telling current and former employees to bring proof of payments so they can get reimbursed, these actions just don’t do it. 7-Eleven has to make things right, and the steps that the company has taken so far do not show the kind of change that is necessary for 7-Eleven to truly clean its public image and help the thousands of people it took advantage of over the course of various decades. Until then, this is an apology that’s not accepted because it’s an empty one.