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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 June 12 - 18  > Union worker wages court battle against ‘lockout’ dismissal
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2013 June 12 - 18 [LABOR]

Union worker wages court battle against ‘lockout’ dismissal

June 13, 2013
A unionized female worker is fighting in court against her “lockout” layoff by a foreign-affiliated bank.

Sugiyama Takako, who filed a case at the Tokyo District Court against State Street Trust & Banking Co. on May 8, had worked in customers’ asset management at the bank since 2004.

The U.S. financial institution State Street announced on January 18, 2012 that its profit in 2011 exceeded that of the previous year. At the same time, the company announced a world-wide restructuring scheme.

At the company’s head office in Tokyo on January 19, 44-year-old employee Sugiyama was called by the corporate management and was told, “We have eliminated your position.” She was then ordered to sign a form to accept her retirement as of March 31 and send it back to the company within a week.

Holding only her coat and bag, Sugiyama was forced to leave her office. This is another example of the so-called “lockout” dismissal that has been also carried out by IBM Japan and Bloomberg in Japan.

Right after being kicked out of the company, Sugiyama called a law office that her mother once consulted. Soon two lawyers rushed to meet with her. They were also working with laid-off workers at Japan Airlines.

After consulting with them, Sugiyama realized that her dismissal was unjust and decided to fight against the company in order to be allowed to return to work. She also joined a labor union affiliated with the National Federation of Finance Workers’ Unions (Kinyu Roren).

Having several collective bargaining sessions with the company, the union achieved the employer’s withdrawal of Sugiyama’s dismissal. However, the management argued that it does not have a job for her and ordered her to stand by on call at home.

In response to Sugiyama’s continuous demand that she be allowed back into the office, State Street in July 2012 ordered her to transfer to its office in Fukuoka City in the Kyushu region. Although she protested the transfer as the unfair order, Sugiyama made the tough decision to relocate to the distant location so that she could go back to work.

However, what she found waiting for her in Fukuoka City was “harassment in order to force me to accept the retirement,” said Sugiyama.

The office she was assigned to had Sugiyama just submit a report daily and meet with her boss every single day.

Finally in October 2012, Sugiyama had to take sick leave because of health problems. She is still prohibited from going to work by her doctor.

In March 2013, the U.S.-based bank ordered her to return to the Fukuoka office. Calling for the transfer to be nullified, Sugiyama filed a lawsuit against her employer on April 1.

Soon after the filing of the case, the company told her on April 5 that it no longer has trust in her and that it will dismiss her on May 5. Sugiyama and her union on May 8 filed another suit against the company, arguing that the corporate move to force her to retire, to unjustly transfer her to the distant office, and to dismiss her is a part of its consistent restructuring attack against her.

Sugiyama said that she “won the first victory” when the collective bargaining blocked the employer’s attempt to dismiss her.

“Since the 2008 Lehman Shock, the company has conducted lockout dismissals, and no one has been able to return to the office. But I was able to return. My former colleagues are paying attention to my case. That is why I can raise my voice and continue to fight until I get the dismissal retracted and return to work.”

Past related articles:
> Workers strike against IBM Japan’s ‘lockout’ layoffs (June 4, 2013)
> High court rules ex-Bloomberg reporter’s dismissal to be invalid (April 25, 2013)

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