Active Employee Accuse of Appearing Legal Battle Breaking Out at Megane Store
A one-man president monitors his employees with security cameras, suddenly demotes them if they refuse to be his chauffeurs, and cuts their salaries by 100,000 yen per month. ......
There are a total of four security cameras in the store where I work now. The company says they are there to avoid problems with customers, but for some reason, cameras are also installed in places where there is no possibility of problems with customers, such as the processing area and the inspection corner. Moreover, the video and audio cannot be seen in the store. We can only assume that the president installed them to monitor our words and actions.
Shinji Masuyama, 46, is an employee of Eye Topia, which operates the Megane Store chain of eyeglass retail stores. Mr. Masuyama had been a block manager with jurisdiction over several stores, but in 2008 he was suddenly disciplined. Unable to accept the disciplinary action, Mr. Masuyama applied to the District Court for a labor tribunal in the same year, and the tribunal ruled that the disciplinary action was invalid. The company responded by reducing his pay and demoting him, and in August 2009, the case was transferred to the main court. The first trial was held in April this year.
Kenichi Imaoka, 54, a manager of the company’s sales headquarters and store areas, also filed a lawsuit against the company in January this year. Like Mr. Masuyama, the reason for the lawsuit was an inexplicable pay cut and demotion.
Why were these two men, who have been with the company for more than 20 years, given such unreasonable treatment? Koichi Kato, who became the second president of Ai Topia in 2012, is said to have been a one-man operation.
In June 2009, I was demoted to store manager of a store in Tokyo without any explanation or warning. There were several other employees who were punished without any reason, but many of them belonged to the Tokyo Managers’ Union, and Mr. Masuyama is a member of the union.
We joined the union in ’18 because we were worried about the future of the company, as President Kato did not care about the professional employees and hung out to dry the veteran executive officers who were on the side of the employees. The president must have felt uncomfortable with the employees who had known him for a long time. It is clear that the company is planning to ‘crush the labor union,’ Imaoka claims in the trial.
Demotion is the main issue.
The biggest problem, as mentioned above, is that despite the lack of proper explanations, employees are being demoted or having their salaries reduced one after another. Mr. Masuyama said.
Mr. Masuyama said, “It was revealed in the labor tribunal that President Kato had given me an obviously low score on my job evaluation sheet. He said that this was the reason for my demotion, but I have no idea why the president gave me a low score. I was confronted with a work order claiming that I had been harassing my subordinates at the store and forcing them to join the labor union, but there was no concrete basis for this.
Demotion is said to be a rampant practice at Ai Topia. Mr. Imaoka recalls an unreasonable demotion he received in the past.
I was ordered to drive (the president’s) Audi when I accompanied President Kato on a store inspection. When I refused, I was immediately transferred to the area manager of another region. Furthermore, I was demoted to take responsibility for the operation of a store that had already been decided to be closed in that area. I think the president was judging whether I would follow him or not based on whether I drove his car or not.
Mr. Masuyama’s basic salary and position allowance were reduced in stages, and his salary was cut by about 100,000 yen per month for two years. In the case of Mr. Imaoka, when he was demoted from a block manager to a store manager, his salary was reduced by about 100,000 yen per month. That’s more than a million yen a year, too much for a generation of workers to lose.
My child is in the second year of high school and is about to go to college, so it’s too hard to have my salary reduced by 100,000 yen a month at a time when I need to pay for entrance fees and cram school. My wife, who had been cutting back on her living expenses due to the uncertainty of the future, fell into a state of depression.
When this magazine asked Ai Topia about the unreasonable punishment the two received and President Kato’s one-man management style, we received the following response.
We would like to refrain from answering the details because of the pending dispute.
A one-man president who threatens the lives of veteran employees who have worked hard and contributed to the company with his likes and dislikes. What would you think if the boss of your company was like that?
From the February 25, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Filming： Shinji Hamasaki