Supreme court acknowledges no liability of JR firms for discriminatory hiring of workers

The Supreme Court on December 22 rejected the former Japanese National Railways union members' claim that Japan Railways group firms' refusal to hire them at the time of the break-up and privatization of the JNR in 1987 was an unfair labor practice.

The biggest issue was whether the JR firms should bear the liability as "employers" for the unfair labor practices of their predecessor.

The top court determined that the JR was not responsible for the JNR's unfair labor practice. But two out of five justices gave dissenting opinions, saying, "The JR should not be exempted from taking responsibility as employers in terms of hiring procedures for the unfair labor practices of the former JNR." Their minority views were attached to the verdict.

The heavily indebted JNR, in April 1987 after a 114-year operation history, was split into six private passenger train service firms and a freighter service company, and 1,047 union members were eventually refused employment by the JR companies.

The Central Labor Relations Commission, the top governmental labor mediation body, had acknowledged the unfair labor practices of the JNR and issued a relief order for those workers. But the Tokyo High Court in 2002 rejected the commission's decision, and the top court upheld the high court's ruling that day. (end)

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