Many of you may have been a customer of the standing noodle chain “Nadai Fuji Soba”. This strong ally of working men is now in the midst of a bogus lawsuit.
In January of this year, Daitandish, the company that runs Fuji Soba, dismissed Shigeto Abe, 54, the chairman of the company’s labor union, and two others on disciplinary grounds. The two claimed that this was an unfair dismissal and filed a labor tribunal (a procedure in which a committee consisting of a judge and a labor tribunal tries to resolve disputes between workers and employers) with the Tokyo District Court in April.
In September, the labor tribunal ruled that the dismissal of the two workers was “invalid,” but Fuji Soba opposed this decision. Fuji Soba has decided to go to trial and fight the case,” said a reporter from a national newspaper.
Mr. Abe began working at Fuji Soba in 2001. After working as a foreman in Kawasaki and as a manager in Ogikubo and other locations, he became a section chief at the head office and was involved in store management and other operations. Mr. Abe explains.
When I was a foreman, it was normal to work from 7 p.m. until 11 a.m. the next morning. When there was a monthly store manager’s meeting in the afternoon, the manager would be away, so I would substitute for him on site. I was so overworked that I collapsed at least once a year, once breaking my ribs on a station platform. When I became a section chief at the head office, I was responsible for checking sales, labor costs, utility costs, and other detailed figures for the five or six stores I was in charge of, as well as various other duties. We worked weekends and holidays, and worked 18-hour days as a regular occurrence.
Fuji Soba’s blackness was not limited to the long working hours.
If we forgot to turn on or off the lights on the signboards, we were told to write a letter of complaint. Even if a part-timer did the same thing when the manager was not around, he had to write a report. If there was an inquiry from a customer, even if it was obviously unreasonable, it was a written report. There was a time when employees and part-timers complained that they were not able to take paid vacations as much as they wanted, and when an executive learned about it, he sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Make a list of all the people who have objected to paid holidays.
The email from that time is shown in the image below. The email from that time is shown in the image below. The email was sent simultaneously from the executive to Mr. Abe and the other section chiefs.
Mr. Abe, who could no longer stand the sight of his junior employees suffering physical and mental damage due to the harsh working environment, formed a labor union in May 2008. He filed a labor tribunal for payment of unpaid overtime wages, and was dismissed in January 2009 on the grounds that he had submitted a notebook with falsified work records as evidence. What happened after that is as described above. Mr. Abe told us.
In order to prove the actual hours I worked, I simply submitted the evidence, along with my notebook and LINE conversations with my family. But the company refused to accept it, saying it was a fabrication. We believe that our dismissal was unfair and aimed at crushing the union.
Daitan Holdings, which owns Daitan Dishes, responded to FRIDAY with the following statement.
Daitan Holdings, which owns Daitan Dishes, responded to FRIDAY with the following statement: “We are not aware that the kind of work conditions you mentioned (editor’s note: 18-hour workdays, 40-hour workdays, etc.) have become the norm. （The dismissal of Mr. Abe and the others was based on objective facts and was not an attempt to destroy the union. We regret that the labor tribunal ruled that the dismissal was invalid, but the judge clearly stated that there were ‘doubts’ about the evidence (submitted by Mr. Abe and others), so we understand that we were able to achieve a minimum result. After the case is transferred to the court, we will make every effort to carefully assert and prove our claims.
The trial will begin on November 24.
From the November 26, 2021 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Shinji Hamasaki