May 22, 2008 / 4:36 AM / 11 years ago

Toyota to raise overtime pay for 'voluntary' work

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

TOKYO, May 22 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), which a court recently ruled had worked one of its employees to death, said on Thursday it would raise the limit on overtime pay for activities it classifies as “voluntary”.

Workers at the world’s biggest automaker are expected to take part in quality control activities outside working hours to seek ways to boost efficiency and quality, but can only claim overtime for two hours of this a month.

Pressure has mounted on Toyota to change as workers complain about spending far more time out of their personal lives.

A splinter labour union for Toyota workers formed in 2006 petitioned labour regulators last week, asking them to force the company to improve its ways.

Overworking is a serious problem in Japan, where workers are often judged on their dedication and unions typically toe the company line. On average, workers uses less than half of their paid holidays, government figures show.

Toyota said in a statement it would expand from June 1 the range of work it would pay overtime for.

The company could not disclose the new limit on overtime pay, or how much it would affect profits, a spokeswoman said.

As more Japanese embrace the idea of balancing work with leisure, companies in Japan face increasing claims for work-related depression and have come under pressure to take responsibility for “karoshi” (death from overwork).

Late last year, a district court ruled in favour of a widow of a Toyota employee who said that overwork had caused the death of her 30-year-old husband.

He had logged more than 106 hours of overtime in his final month at a car plant, most of it unpaid, and the court ruled that his widow was entitled to government compensation. [nT188525]

This month, a former Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) worker’s parents filed a lawsuit against the automaker claiming that harassment and overwork had pushed their 25-year-old son to suicide last year, Japanese media have said.

The pressure is not just coming in the autos sector. McDonald’s Japan 2702.Q said this week it would begin paying overtime to its restaurant managers from August after a Tokyo court ordered the fast-food chain to pay 7.55 million yen

($73,330) in overtime and compensation to a former manager. [nT29396]

($1=102.96 Yen)

(Editing by Rodney Joyce and Michael Watson)

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