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2012 April 18 - 24 [LABOR]

Behind troubled Japan Airlines

April 18, 2012
Japan’s flagship carrier Japan Airlines has suffered a series of problems and accidents, including a rear-end collision on a runway. JAL Chairman Onishi Masaru on April 10 delivered an unprecedented message to all employees to raise their safety awareness.

Following the accident in which the tail section of a JAL aircraft was struck on a runway at Tokyo’s Haneda airport on March 31, inexcusable cases occurred one after another in just two weeks such as an irregular flight path taken, an injury, and mistakes made in piloting, cabin work, maintenance work, and cargo inspections.

Given these examples, the following concerns must be addressed: The absence of longtime crewmembers may be causing the rapid deterioration of experience and skills; crewmembers may not be able to take days off even if they are not fit for work duty; and the company may be putting more priority on efficiency than on safe aviation.

JAL forced many of its veteran employees off their jobs through personnel cuts and mass dismissals of pilots and CAs. Many engineers left JAL’s maintenance section as well.

JAL Chair Onishi himself admits to the fact that the outflow of experienced workers has made it difficult for remaining workers to quickly take up the slack and learn the basic skills and knowledge that the experienced workers had.

The other day, a co-pilot who was not feeling well took an over-the-counter pill in order to fly a plane in violation of the Civil Aeronautics Act. Why did not JAL decide to replace the co-pilot when the captain checked with the company? It may have just wanted to avoid a flight cancellation.

It is necessary to establish a work environment for pilots to be able to refrain from working when ill without fear of unfair treatment like dismissals or dock in pay.

Also on another day, inspectors found an explosive reaction when checking cargo. However, they were reluctant to report it to the company because the shipper was a major manufacturer. Here again shows the corporate culture giving preference to profits over safety.

The unfairly dismissed pilots and CAs are all longtime workers. They are familiar with the 1985 crash which killed 520 passengers. In the wake of this tragic event, they made desperate efforts to improve JAL’s safety measures by repeatedly demanding the company to implement needed precautions.

To eliminate the workers seeking increased safety from the workplace means the same as safety cutbacks.
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