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Suicide of worker at National Stadium due to overwork, family says

A worker at the site of the National Stadium committed suicide in March after working excessive overtime
A worker at the site of the National Stadium committed suicide in March after working excessive overtime (NHK)

TOKYO (TR) – Amid government calls to reduce overwork at companies, the family of a male worker at the site of the New National Stadium who committed suicide earlier this year says that he logged excessive overtime prior to his death, reports NHK (July 20).

The lawyer for the family said at a press conference on Thursday that the man, a 23-year-old worker tasked with quality control at the site, located in Shinjuku Ward, took his life in March after working more than 200 hours of overtime the month before.

On July 12, the family lodged a worker’s compensation claim indicating that the suicide was caused by depression brought about by having to cope with delays at the site that forced him to work excessive hours.

The worker joined a construction firm in the capital in April of last year after graduation. The company, which is a sub-contractor for the New National Stadium, began dispatching him to the site in December. After taking a day off work on March 2, he never returned. His body was found in Nagano Prefecture on April 15, according to the Asahi Shimbun (July 20).

“We would like the company to do its utmost to protect the lives and health of its workers,” the family said through the lawyer.

Design and budgetary problems

The design for the stadium, to be used for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, was done by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. Taisei Construction is leading a joint venture that is carrying out the construction, which has been delayed by 14 months due to design and budgetary problems.

The initial design for the stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects was a key element in Tokyo’s bid submission for the Games in 2013. However, it was scrapped in 2015 after the cost of the project was significantly revised upward. It is estimated that Kuma’s design will cost 149 billion yen to build, a figure significantly less than the 252-billion-yen revised price tag for ZHA’s design.

Overtime limit

Following the suicide of a female employee at advertising giant Dentsu in 2015, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare earlier this year began examining a legal limit on monthly overtime of between 60 and 80 hours per month.

Regarding the suicide of the employee, Taisei said that labor management is the responsibility of specialized contractors at the site. “We are aware of the fact that inadequacies in the management system caused long working hours,” the company that employed the man said. “In the future, we will continue to review our employment regulations.”