General Support Union Crowdfunds Production Assistant's Labor Abuse Court Case Against Studio 4°C
posted on by Kim Morrissy
General Support Union has launched a crowdfunding campaign on behalf of a Studio 4°C production assistant, who is suing the anime studio for alleged unpaid overtime and lack of transparency. The crowdfunding campaign was launched on the Campfire website on October 18 with a goal of 500,000 yen (US$4,587), and has raised 436,000 (US$4,000) in 10 days. The campaign will run until November 30.
The campaign page describes the system of "unlimited work at a fixed rate" as the reason behind the issue of overwork in the anime and creative industries. The case summary states: "Beginning with the court case against the anime production company Studio 4°C, we are working to create precedents and rules to combat the abuse of flexible work hours, by supporting workers in court and through collective bargaining." The crowdfunded money will go to the production assistant's court fees, consultation fees, and processing fees.
The production assistant appeared on a video posted on the campaign page, explaining the basics of the case and asking for support.
The attorney Shūichi Ōkubo also commented: "The anime and creative industries have many people who work overtime and/or on low wages. This case highlights the problems affecting the industry. Please lend your support."
The production employee "Mr. A" joined the Black Company trade union, a branch of the General Support Union, and has started collective bargaining to obtain the money he says he is owed for unpaid overtime and to improve the animation studio's working conditions. The employee alleges he worked over 100 hours of overtime in a month and others at the company worked over 200 hours in overtime. On October 10, he filed his suit against Studio 4°C.
Mr. A said that he and other staff members were not given written notification explaining their wages and work hours. Without that information, he and other employees could not calculate how much Studio 4°C owes them for overtime. Failure to provide written notice of a company's work hours and wages violates Article 15 of Japan's Labor Standards Act.
Mr. A personally sent Studio 4°C an invoice for the money he believes he is owed. However, the company has not responded to requests for payment and have instead argued that he wasn't always working even when he was clocked in. The production employee moved forward by reporting his claim to the Labor Standards Inspection Office. The inspection officer asked Mr. A to prove that he had worked during the time he was clocked in and provide evidence of the studio's working conditions for the last two years. The production employee found it difficult to provide the evidence the inspector required. This was the point that Mr. A decided to join the union.
Mr. A did eventually receive a copy of the written notification explaining his wages and work hours and was surprised to find that he was considered a "flexible work hours" employee and was subject to "unlimited work at a fixed rate" and not able to claim overtime. He said he had never seen the labor agreement before and it was only given to him after he submitted his bill for unpaid overtime. The notice laid out his basic monthly salary as 158,600 yen (US$1,470), less than what Mr. A said he originally agreed to a year ago. Mr. A stated he agreed to a monthly salary of 220,000 (US$2,040) and does not remember agreeing to the reduced rate.
Mr. A also found a discrepancy in the notice about his allotted break time. He stated that he had worked eight hour shifts with a one hour break for a total of nine hours. However, the notice included an additional 45 minute break on top of the one hour break and another one hour break for overtime. These additional calculated breaks reduced the number of working overtime hours Mr. A could claim even though he stated he was not aware of these additional break times. He would have needed to charge for overtime when he did not take the breaks but unless he submitted these charges himself, the additional work hours were not acknowledged.
The Black Company trade union stated it has contacted Studio 4°C for copies of Mr. A's time card, the company's work regulations, and its various labor-management agreement documents but Studio 4°C has refused to provide copies. The union held a meeting with the Studio 4°C president and claim that the president "hardly answered any questions" and continued to assert that Mr. A did not work "seriously" during his time at the company. The meeting ended after approximately one hour. The union claims that Studio 4°C has blocked any further attempts to negotiate.
The union posted the details of Mr. A's story to publicize the matter after negotiations with Studio 4°C broke down. However, the union has claimed some improvements since discussion with the animation studio began. The union said that after urging Studio 4°C to provide working condition notices the company responded that it would provide the information to its employees. The union also notified the studio that it was obligated by law to provide company-sponsored health check-ups for its employees under the age of 35 and Studio 4°C agreed to abide by the law.
Studio 4°C is the studio behind the anime film adaptation of Daisuke Igarashi's Children of the Sea manga. Children of the Sea opened in Japan on June 7 and ranked at #5 in its opening weekend. GKIDS will screen the film theatrically in North America in Japanese and English in 2019.
In April, an unnamed production assistant joined a Black Company trade union in an attempt to be paid for the uncompensated overtime accrued at Madhouse animation studio. The production assistant alleged they were owed three million yen (US$26,800) worth of unpaid overtime and passed out due to overwork.