Local bank's female workers win overall victory in suit against sexual discrimination

Thirteen current and former female workers of a regional credit bank in Tokyo have won a historical victory in their 15-year long court struggle against discrimination based on sex.

The 13 workers and credit association Shiba Shinkin Bank reached an out-of-the-court settlement mediated by the Supreme Court on October 24. The settlement requires Shiba Shinkin to end discrimination against women in promotion and wages.

The settlement calls on the bank to promote six of the plaintiff employees to section chiefs and make up for the differences in wages and other allowances. In paying these amounts to the six retirees, the bank must take into account what they should have received in these positions.

In 1968, the regional credit bank manipulated the union into a split to carry out discrimination against members of the progressive union in wages and promotion.

Male workers have enjoyed smooth promotion on the basis of seniority, but female workers have been maintained as clerks. The wage gap between male and female workers of the same age bracket ranged from 1.5 million to 4 million yen a year.

In 1987, the 13 female workers filed a suit with the Tokyo District Court against the discrimination. The court in 1996 ordered the bank to take steps to appoint female workers to the post of section chief and pay the amount of the withheld wages. This was the first judgment in Japan that recognized the need for the bank to promote female workers and correct sexual discrimination in wages in the past and to cover their expected future losses. The bank appealed to the higher court.

Then, the Tokyo High Court in December 2000 ruled that the lower court decision is applicable to all sexual discrimination in Japan.

The bank again appealed, but accepted the latest settlement proposal which supports most of the high court decision. This means that the high court decision was fully accepted according to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The United Nations in August 2001 recommended that Japan take measures to eliminate rampant sexual discrimination in Japan's major corporations.

An ILO survey says that the percentage of women among managers is 45% in the U.S.A., 35% in Canada, 33% in Britain, and only 9% in Japan, the second lowest among 17 advanced capitalist countries.

Tamura Hiroshi, Shiba Shinkin Bank Employees Union chair, commented on the settlement, saying, "This will greatly encourage all workers wishing to end sexual discrimination in Japan; a great step forward toward ensuring gender equality in Japan in the 21st century." (end)