The UNIQLO Ginza shop in central Tokyo, which opened in 2005, handed out to its workers a document entitled “Requirements for Personnel”. It lists many items under three categories: needed staff; unneeded staff; and useless staff on whom employee training has no effect.
One of the items under “unneeded staff” is a person who makes complaints. An employee who refuses to disclose information about his/her personal life or admonish other employees for improper behavior is regarded as a “useless” staff member.
A 30-year-old woman who was driven to quit the shop said, “Workers who expressed an opinion different from their boss, including me, were transferred to another section.”
One of the main methods used to “select proper” employees is a promotional examination. To pass the exam, staff members are required to learn by heart the company’s management philosophy with 23 clauses and familiarize themselves with the contents of a manual of several hundred pages.
The woman was promoted in March 2007 from a part-time employee to a region-specific regular employee after taking the exams several times. “As we were forbidden to take the manual home with us or make a photocopy of it, we had to copy the book into our notebooks by hand during break times or after work,” she said.
Sasayama Naoto, a lawyer familiar with labor issues, pointed out that if employees are required to copy the book into their notebooks, the time to do so is counted as working hours, and the employer is obliged to pay them overtime allowances for that.
When the ex-worker was working at the customer complaint department, her ability rating was lowered due to having no chance to serve customers face-to-face, and her wage was reduced accordingly.
Lawyer Sasayama said, “An employer has the right to evaluate employees’ performance. However, if the evaluation is unfair, it is an abuse of power.”
UNIQLO has a total of 1,280 stores worldwide as of the end of August (834 shops at home and 446 abroad). According to the March issue of Forbes, the company’s Chairman and President Yanai Tadashi possesses assets worth 15.5 billion dollars, the largest amount among Japanese multibillionaires for the second straight year.