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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 April 18 - 24  > Non-regular workers in disaster-hit region succeed in blocking abuse of labor laws
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2012 April 18 - 24 [LABOR]

Non-regular workers in disaster-hit region succeed in blocking abuse of labor laws

April 14, 2012
Non-regular workers’ struggles against attempts to dismiss them by employers taking advantage of the 3.11 disaster damage has led to improvement in work rules.

The workers were part of 568 part-time staff at two amusement complexes operated by the Korona Group (Komaki City in Aichi Prefecture) in Sendai City in disaster-affected Miyagi Prefecture. Most of the part-time staff at the facilities did the same jobs as 30 full-time staff in order to make ends meet.

Following the disaster, Korona first ordered all the part-time staff to stand by at home and later dismissed them under the pretext of damage caused by the disaster.

A group of 107 part-timers who did not accept their dismissals joined a general workers’ union of the Zenroren affiliated National Union of General Workers’ Union and urged the company to negotiate with them.

The company, however, ignored their demand by saying that it was unnecessary to pay the workers dismissal allowances and wages while they were on standby with the approval of the local labor standards inspection office.

Based on Article 20 of the Labor Standards Act, if employers have difficulty in continuing business due to a natural disaster or other unavoidable reasons, their local labor inspection offices can allow them to dismiss workers without providing advance notice or dismissal allowances.

After a temporary suspension of business, Korona publicized the reopening of the complexes on TV. This showed that the company was capable of running the facilities.

When the labor inspection office supposedly looked into whether to exempt Korona from paying dismissal allowances, the office failed to follow necessary procedures, including hearing from concerned workers and conducting on-sight investigations.

At a May Day rally in Sendai last year, Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives Takahashi Chizuko met with the dismissed Korona part-time workers to hear their side of the story.

On May 11, 2011, in response to questions from Takahashi regarding this issue, former Vice Labor Minister (current Minister) Komiyama Yoko promised to take appropriate measures. About six months later, the Labor Ministry issued an official notice calling on local inspection offices to follow precise steps when examining employers’ applications for permission to fire workers without paying the legally required dismissal allowances.

Miyagi general workers’ union executive member Endo Akio stressed, “The solidarity that expressed itself between the workers’ movement in unity with the union and the JCP lawmaker’s questions regarding the issue in the Diet has resulted in the Labor Ministry’s recent official statement supporting the position of the workers.”
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