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Takata's bankruptcy raises concerns about employment at related firms

Workers assemble parts for Takata seat belts at a center for people with disabilities run by social welfare corporation Hasshin Fukushikai, in Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture, on June 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

OTSU -- Airbag manufacturer Takata Corp.'s bankruptcy filing has raised concerns about employment security at related businesses.

Takata has four production units in the city of Hikone, where it was inaugurated, and other areas of Shiga Prefecture, mainly manufacturing seat belts. A total of about 6,000 people are working at about 30 primary subcontractors and some 25 secondary subcontractors.

Takata was established in Hikone in 1933 by Takezo Takada as "Takata Co.," a textile company. In 1956, it was reorganized into a limited company and in 1960 Takata became the first company in Japan to manufacture two-point seat belts. The company relocated its headquarters to Tokyo in 1969 and changed its name to Takata Corp. in 1983.

A subcontractor in Hikone, which processes seat belts into final products, has had transactions with Takata for more than 30 years. The subcontractor, which employs about 20 workers, earns 50 to 60 million yen in sales annually solely from orders from Takata.

The company's 41-year-old president expressed concerns about its business prospects due to Takata's failure.

"If a U.S. company under the umbrella of a Chinese enterprise takes control of Takata, the company will lose its reasons for sticking to staying in Hikone," the president of the subcontractor said. "At present, we have no choice but to complete work ordered by Takata."

At a workshop for people with disabilities run by Hasshin Fukushikai, a social welfare corporation in Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture, about 35 out of some 100 people are producing parts for seat belts.

Shigeyuki Kojima, head of the workshop, said, "Takata has fully cooperated in designing the production line for disabled persons and lending necessary equipment to us."

The workshop earns 75 million yen a year from its contracts with Takata, accounting for roughly 60 percent of its income.

"I wonder whether an overseas company that will take over Takata's business will protect our jobs under the same conditions if the new owner reviews Takata's management," Kojima said.

A prefectural government official in charge of the matter said, "We understand that the company's new management intends to maintain its employment without forcing many people in relevant businesses to quit their jobs."

The prefectural government is set to hold an emergency meeting between Gov. Taizo Mikazuki and heads of departments and bureaus concerned on June 27 to discuss the impact of Takata's failure.

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