Labor standards bureau director says pressuring workers to quit is illegal

In corporate restructuring, major corporations prefer the roundabout way
of telling its employees to quit the company under cover of "transfer of
company affiliation." In the parliament, however, a government official in
charge of labor law denounced the excessive coercion to quit the company as

The statement was made by Hibi Tooru, Health, Labor, and Welfare
Ministry's Labor Standards Bureau director, in a House of Representatives
committee on November 21 in reply to Japanese Communist Party Ozawa Kazuaki
who questioned the corporate restructuring by the Sumitomo Metal Industries,
a major iron and steel maker.

Sumitomo Metal plans to make all its 9,000 transfer workers quit and then
let affiliate companies rehire them at 60-80 percent of their previous
wages. The company persistently intimidates those who do not give ready

Ozawa maintained that such intimidation of workers into quitting amounts
to infringement of the workers' human rights, and that pressure exceeding
certain limits is illegal.

Referring to the court judgment of February 2000 over similar coercion by
Nippon Kokan, another major steel maker, Ozawa demanded that the details of
the rulings be made clear.

Labor Standards Bureau director Hibi said that the Nippon Kokan case was
dealt with based on the Supreme Court judgment. Hibi said, "In principle it
is illegal for a company to urge its workers to retire, in a manner that
exceeds certain limits and hinders them from making decisions freely.
Violation will be liable to compensation."

Ozawa referred to the specific examples of Sumitomo Metal's "persuasion"
of workers which exceeds what is usually necessary, and is carried out many
times and for over a long period. Ozawa said that Sumitomo Metal is
violating the law and that the government must supervise the company. (end)