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Court condemns discrimination against National Railway Workers' Union (Kokuro) members

The Tokyo High Court on March 25 upheld a lower court decision that the Japan Railway (JR) refusal to hire former Japanese National Railways (JNR) workers who were National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro) members was an unfair labor practice.

When JNR was privatized and broken up into Japan Railway (JR) companies in 1987, JR refused to employ Kokuro members who opposed the railway privatization.

Demanding compensation for discrimination against union members, 304 Kokuro members and relatives filed a lawsuit against the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT).

This is the first high court ruling and the third that held the government responsible for the unfair labor practice, after the Tokyo District Court ruling in this lawsuit and the January 2008 Tokyo District Court decision in the lawsuit filed by the All National Railway Locomotive Engineers' Union members.

The ruling rejected the plaintiffs' demand that the court recognize their status as JR employees but pointed out that former JNR workers had been discriminated against based on their union affiliation. Based on then JNR executives' remarks, the high court concluded that the JNR at the time had the intention of vilifying and trying to weaken the Kokuro union.

The court ordered the JRTT to pay 5.57 million yen in compensation to each plaintiff, which was 500,000 yen more than a lower court order.

In their published statement, the plaintiffs' group and their lawyers' group said that the high court ruling provides proof that their 22 years of struggle had been a just struggle. At the same time, however, they pointed out that the ruling was unfair in that it acquiesced dismissals and that their struggle wasn't rewarded the full amount of compensation demanded.

Pointing out that a prolonged settlement is morally unacceptable, they demanded JRTT apologize for their unfair labor practice and to put forward a policy that will meet their demand, "employment, guarantee of pensions, and a monetary settlement", by revoking their decision on the dismissal.

- Akahata, March 26, 2009

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