TOKYO (majirox news) – This is not a case of “ take your job and shove it”, but in a nice turn of fate, workers who were shoved out of their jobs managed to take them back. In fact, they bought the company. This is perhaps the first time ever that a group of Japanese workers have bought out their former employer.
It all started last year when the Yokote Kanko Taxi Company nearly went bankrupt because of bad investments outside the taxicab business, and laid off all its workers, including its cab drivers. Yokote Taxi was a fixture in snowy Akita Prefecture, which is located way up to the north on Japan’s main island of Honshu, looking out over the Sea of Japan.
For 30 years, in good weather and bad, Yokote Taxi company taxis could be seen on the roads of Akita Prefecture, trekking through snow, slush and storms, picking up and delivering passengers. Then one day, without warning, it all came to an end for the firms 31 workers.
However, one group of workers refused to give up. Of course, they had no choice. They decided to buy the company.
“Thirteen of us decided to take-over the company in order to save our lives and the lives of our families,” said Kazuo Obara, 59, the new director of Yokote. “We tried to find other jobs, but couldn’t because of our ages. We are in our 50s and 60s.”
Their only chance of survival was to take over the company, which was days away from formalizing bankruptcy by court order. First, they had to hire a CPA and get legal advice because Yokote Taxi was heavily burdened with debt.
The most difficult part was transferring the former company’s taxi license to their new company. Taxi licenses are extremely difficult to obtain in Japan. Furthermore, because they were taking-over a debt-riddled company, this process was even more complicated.
“It took us six months to get it, and the only reason we got it is because the Transportation Labor Union helped us,” Obara said. “They prepared and helped us submit the documents.”
Japan’s taxi industry was deregulated in 2002. However, in 2008, the Transport Ministry resurrected some regulations as an oversupply of taxis had led to lower profits for taxi companies and poorer working conditions for drivers. Currently Japan has about 260,000 taxis operating nationwide as compared to 222,000 in 2006.
About 80 percent of the nation’s taxi operation zones are supervised, and 109 of these zones are stricter in allowing new entries into the market.
“We are in one of the most restrictive zones,” says Obara. “This made it even more amazing that we obtained the license. We kept on going despite the odds against us.”