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Parents to create fund in memory of daughter to fight firms that exploit workers

Tsuyoshi Mori, right, and his wife Yuko talk in front of a portrait of their deceased daughter Mina at a news conference in Tokyo on Dec. 8, 2015. (Mainichi)

The parents of a young woman who committed suicide due to overwork at a Watami restaurant in 2008 will establish a fund to fight businesses that exploit workers by imposing unlawful conditions on employees. Tsuyoshi Mori and his wife Yuko have decided to set up the fund in memory of their daughter Mina to support labor unions and their members in their fight against such "black companies," as they are known in Japan.

    Mina Mori joined a subsidiary of pub chain Watami Co. in the spring of 2008 and worked at a Watami restaurant in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. The 26-year-old woman took her own life in June of the same year. Her overtime totaled some 141 hours per month, and labor authorities recognized in February 2012 that her death was a work-related accident.

    Her parents offered to propose the Nozomi (hope) Fund be established at the Tokyo east chapter of the National Union of General Workers because they joined the union in collective bargaining and a lawsuit against Watami. The fund will help people who contact the labor union and NPO Labor Consultation Center in trials and labor disputes by supplementing attorney's fees and lawsuit costs.

    An interest-free loan of up to 500,000 yen will be available, and if a settlement is reached the money will be returned. If a claimant cannot get redress, reimbursement may be exempted depending on the circumstances.

    The fund will be set up with a portion of some 130 million yen in compensation that Watami paid under a compromise deal at the Tokyo District Court in December 2015. The Mori couple will talk about the fund at a symposium in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward on Aug. 7.

    Mitsuteru Suda, secretary-general of the Tokyo east chapter of the National Union of General Workers, says there are many workers who cannot fight back against black companies due to high costs, over lengthy working hours and non-payment of overtime work.

    Mori and his wife say their daughter would not have died if she had joined the labor union. They called on victims of black companies to join hands with the union through the fund and not to give up.

    Suda says his union wants to assist victims of black companies. The Tokyo east chapter of the National Union of General Workers is reachable at 03-3604-5983.

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