Why it costs 37 cents to make Japan’s bullet train run on time

mean. resentment. absurd.There are many words applied to Conflict of laws Centered on an unnamed bullet train driver who hasn’t arrived at a station in western Japan and his employer deducted 43 yen ($0.37) from his salary.

However, the word that is obviously absent in all this is “bargaining”.

Because of this fierce battle on the narrowest financial battlefield and teetering on the cliff of layoffs, it deeply reveals the case of modern Japanese workplaces and also provides this country with an extremely accurate price of national intangible assets.

43 yen-both painful and painful-is a measurable sign of the sloppy operation of a sector in the transportation industry that operates with absolute precision. From these perspectives, 43 yen has become a small molecular cost for Japan’s high-speed rail network, and its punctuality and frequency are enviable.

The impact of this case has caused heated debate in recent weeks. It originated from an incident that occurred in June last year, and (some people think it is critical, some people say it is irrelevant) absolutely did not cause any inconvenience to any passengers.

A driver of JR West’s job that day was to take an empty train from the platform to the platform, and he realized that he was waiting on the wrong platform. After sensing the crisis, it took him a minute to get to the correct platform, and the delayed transfer caused another minute delay in arriving at the station.

JR West runs 378 bullet trains every day in fiscal year 2020, with an average delay of 12 seconds throughout the year, and 85 yen is deducted from the driver’s salary to pay for the two minutes that he technically did not work in the company’s view. The driver argued that he had never been absent from work due to human error, so he appealed to the local labor standards bureau and found that he was running around between platforms and adjusted for what he called the error. The fine for not working hours was reduced to 43. Yuan.

But the driver was still unhappy. Not only did he have to sue JR West, but he also had to pay 43 yen in extra overtime and 2.2 million yen in compensation (although it could be said to be quite mild) to compensate for the emotional torture of the entire incident.

Many features of the story are outstanding. It is worth noting that in a work culture that defaults (or bullies) many people to “service” overtime for free, JR West chooses to measure work or absences in increments of one minute. If a long-term printer jam is handled improperly or the elevator mistakenly transported to the wrong floor is judged as not working hours and fined, then other Japanese companies may decide how far to go on the same road? If minutes are judged to be large enough punishment units, why are they still regarded as too small units for overtime rewards?

More interestingly, despite the protests of drivers and the brutal rants of online companies, why JR West dealt with the wrong problem with such mild punishment. The fact seems to be that the driver responsible for driving a vehicle traveling at 320 km/h and the strictest schedule made a mistake. This mistake happened to have no serious consequences, but it happened in an area where it is clear that others might not do it.

If JR West is revealed to use an iron-fisted fine system to keep its employees intact—for example, one month’s salary for incidents like this one—we might conclude that the famous punctuality is based on the fear system. That regime is likely to exist, but this incident shows that it only needs the smallest punishment to instill the appropriate level of terror.

This leaves a more ambiguous question of incentives-this may be because in the land of robot manufacturers, JR West (like its counterparts in central and eastern Japan) has been consistently ranked among the most schooled and educated ideal employers in Japan. University graduates. There is a feeling that Japan Railway Company has long transformed this desire into employees’ excessive pursuit of perfectionism.

In the past few weeks, the railway company has been able to redouble its emphasis on employees who should be grateful for working for them. Last week, JR East tested an autonomous bullet train on commercial tracks, which is considered “almost equivalent” to humans.

All of this can explain how the 43-yen fine ensures that the average annual tardiness is measured in seconds. Noisy public protests by drivers are extremely rare, suggesting that financial micro-punishments—perhaps with some existential threats replaced by robots—are quietly working.


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