Things are going from bad to worse for Tecmo. First Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki announced he was leaving and suing Tecmo, while a totally separate lawsuit has been filed against Tecmo by Hiroaki Ozawa and co-plaintiff Tatsuki Tsunoda. Ozawa is the Tecmo Labor Union leader and Ninja Gaiden 2 lead engineer, while Tsunoda is the Ninja Gaiden 2 level design lead. Two key Team Ninja members! That alone does not bode well for Tecmo. But, this isn't just a story of two guys trying to get some overtime, but also apparently of deception, falsified statements and a dead, beloved company president. There's concrete evidence in the plaintiff's claims — so concrete that it could very well be the silver bullet for Tecmo's current upper management.
Ozawa and Tsunoda both filed their suit this past Monday. According to the suit, the workers were illegally placed on a "flexible hours" work scheme where overtime was not paid. Because of this dubious employment structure, overtime for the employees exceeded over 100 hours per month in unpaid overtime. Along with the lawsuit, they provided hard evidence to prove that Tecmo's actions were unethical and illegal.
The following day, Ozawa clarified their lawsuit with Japanese website IT Media, explaining what it means for the entire company: "There are only two employees bringing this suit, but our accusations encompass all 300 employees, and if Tecmo doesn't immediately address the issue and correct the problem, we are ready to start a second and a third class action suit." Hiroaki Ozawa is an official representative of the labor union, having been elected with a majority vote from amongst the 300 employees. That's why, when he says that he is prepared for a 2nd or 3rd wave of class-action suits, you can take him seriously — he has been voted in by a majority of Tecmo employees.
If the claims made in this suit are indeed fact, how much has Tecmo exploited its 300 employees for over these two years. After Team Ninja member Ozawa was fairly elected as the head of the Tecmo Labor Union this past February, made it his first priority to right these wrongs, thus the reason why the employees' lawsuit was filed. (The previous Tecmo Union Head was never elected and in management — despite the majority of Tecmo's employees being in R&D.)
The evidence the plaintiffs submitted in their suit seems to indicate that Yoshimi Yasuda, president of Tecmo Co. Ltd., falsified contracts relating to overtime work, illegally withholding payment of wages to 300 employees over the course of the past 2 years. Before Ozawa was elected democratically by Tecmo employees, a figurehead Tecmo Union leader was in place, pushing through measures that employees did not agree to and did not have a voice in. Measures like the overtime and flex time "agreements". Despite Yasuda's direct involvement with this deception, he attempted to shift responsibility by claiming that this was the fault of the founder and former chairman of Tecmo, now deceased, stating he was told not to hold an election and just pick someone to head the Tecmo Labor Union. The leaders of the labor union who discovered this impropriety have filed suit. They are seeking damages of approximately 4,160,000 yen each.But what is the crux of their argument? How much water does it hold? The answer: A lot, it seems. And this case might be more open-and-closed that Tecmo is ready to admit.
Let's have a look at the actual evidence submitted by plaintiffs Ozawa and Tsunoda:
Above, is a document from last year where the figurehead Tecmo Union leader signed an overtime work "agreement" claiming to represent all employees. It even says "chosen by popular vote" at the bottom in Japanese, which is circled. (There was no vote, apparently.) This figurehead exec's name hasn't been make public, and it is grayed out in the document. It does say his position though in Japanese: 経営管理部 経理課 係長, which basically means a low-level management exec. Not exactly the kind of guy 250+ R&D employees would choose to represent them. Link here.
Here is another document is similar, but for the so-called "flex-time" agreement. The aim in Japanese employment law for the "flex-time" rule it to allow employees to work non-standard hours freely. However, Tecmo stands accused of using it as an excuse not to pay overtime to workers. It was signed by the same figurehead, therefore the suit claims it is invalid. Link here.
This document is from this spring, after Ozawa had finally be elected by a democratic Tecmo staff vote, replacing the figurehead. This is a statement from Tecmo's president, Yoshimi Yasuda, in response to several queries made by Ozawa and the Tecmo Labor Union and is in response to the labor unions request for information on why a low-level management guy was made labor union head without an election. Yasuda claims that the owner of the company, now deceased, told him before his death that he should "just pick someone in management and make him the labor representative."
This document is important in two ways:
1. It backs up the claim that there was no election.
2. It shows that Yasuda is trying to dodge responsibility by blaming the beloved founder of Tecmo, now deceased.
Note: Tecmo released an English language press release yesterday which reads: "There are several inaccurate reports stating that all 300 company employees are named in the lawsuit and the company would like to clarify that only two employees are involved in the suit." Tecmo is correct, only two employees are actually named as plaintiffs in the suit, but how many do they represent. As Kotaku originally posted, "The plaintiffs represent all 300 Tecmo employees and contest that because of this dubious employment structure, overtime for the employees exceeded over 100 hours per month in unpaid overtime."
The documents submitted as evidence can also be found here. There are also, of course, part of public record.