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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 14 - 20  > Top court rules unequal treatment of non-regular postal workers to be unreasonable
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2020 October 14 - 20 [LABOR]

Top court rules unequal treatment of non-regular postal workers to be unreasonable

October 16, 2020
The Supreme Court on October 15 ruled that Japan Post’s inequality in treatment between regular and non-regular workers in regard to various paid allowances and paid holidays is unreasonable.

This ruling was issued in regard to court battles fought by 12 Japan Post fixed-term workers in Tokyo, Osaka, and Saga. In these battles, the plaintiffs claimed that the company’s discriminatory treatment of non-regular workers doing the same job as regular workers violates Article 20 of the Labor Contract Act. They demanded that Japan Post provide them with allowances for family, housing, and work during the New Year holidays. They also called for being entitled to summer and winter holidays and paid sick leave.

The plaintiffs’ claim was basically reflected in the top court ruling. The ruling recognized that it is unreasonable for Japan Post to exclude fixed-term workers from receiving the company’s fringe benefits, such as dependent allowance and additional pay for working during the year-end and New Year’s holidays. The ruling also pointed out that the Japan Post’s paid sick leave program aims to enable employees to attend to their health problems without financial anxiety, and acknowledged that the company unfairly denies fixed-term workers the right to paid sick leave. Furthermore, the top court recognized the inequality in eligibility to take summer and winter holidays as irrational and, unlike lower court rulings, ordered Japan Post to compensate the plaintiffs for damages caused by this discriminatory treatment.

The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for an end to the difference in seasonal bonus payments.

Following the ruling, the plaintiffs in the Tokyo and Osaka lawsuits, who are members of the Postal Industry Workers’ Union (PIWU), and their lawyers held a press conference in Tokyo. At the press conference, they issued a statement pointing out that the top court judgement is a big step forward toward the elimination of unjust regular/non-regular worker treatment. In the statement, the plaintiffs and their legal team expressed their determination to continue working hard to abolish Japan Post’s discrimination against non-regular workers. Japan Post employs about 184,000 non-regular workers, almost the same number as regular workers.

At the press conference, a 55-year-old plaintiff said, “Currently, I can’t take enough days off to deal with my health issues as non-regular workers are not eligible for paid sick leave. So, I’m really happy with the top court ruling.” Citing similar legal battles waged by 154 PIWU members across the nation, he said, “Japan Post should abide by the Supreme Court ruling.” Another plaintiff in his late 50s said, “To me, the top court judgement seems to open the door to a new era. Japan Post should fundamentally revise its labor practices without delay.”

Past related articles:
> Non-regular postal workers sue Japan Post for its discriminatory treatment [February 15, 2020]
> Osaka court judges Japan Post’s discrimination against fixed-term workers to be unfair [February 22, 2018]
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