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New Dentsu president on labor reform 'mission' after worker's suicide: interview

Dentsu President Toshihiro Yamamoto sits with the Mainichi Shimbun for an interview on Feb. 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

Dentsu Inc.'s new President Toshihiro Yamamoto expressed his determination to complete in-house labor reforms within two years in response to the 2015 suicide of a first-year employee caused by overwork, during a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

"My mission is to push through labor reform. It will be completed in two years," said Yamamoto, who became president of Japan's largest advertising agency on Jan. 23 this year to replace Tadashi Ishii. The former president resigned to take responsibility for the employee's overwork-induced suicide. Yamamoto was promoted from the position of senior vice president after his efforts at the company's working environment reform headquarters established in November 2016 were highly evaluated.

With regard to the causes of the December 2015 suicide of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi, Yamamoto told the Mainichi, "It was caused by various factors such as Dentsu's corporate culture (where long work hours was the norm). We lacked risk awareness as a company."

Yamamoto stressed that labor reform would be "meaningless if it's just about superficial measures."

"I want to execute substantive reforms by which everyone at the company understands that legal compliance and protecting employees' health will lead to improvements in job quality as well as business performance, which will ultimately strengthen Dentsu's social presence," Yamamoto explained.

While the company has implemented an in-house rule to limit overtime work up to 10 p.m., Yamamoto plans to draw up a road map around this April for a two-year reform target and move forward with the reform measures while checking the rate of progress.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Dentsu had overcharged clients for online advertising services even though the company did not run ads as contracted, in addition to other cases of malicious business practices. The number of overcharging cases totaled 997 involving 96 companies, with the value of the transactions totaling over 100 million yen. The company is planning to work out preventive measures against such infringements. (Interviewed by Shinya Hamanaka, Business News Department)

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