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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 February 10 - 16  > Opera singer wins out-of-court settlement over labor dispute with New National Theater
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2016 February 10 - 16 [LABOR]

Opera singer wins out-of-court settlement over labor dispute with New National Theater

February 12, 2016
The 13-year-long labor dispute between opera singer Yaegashi Setsuko and the New National Theater has ended in an out-of-court settlement.

Yaegashi is a member of the Musicians Union of Japan and was under a one-year contract with the New National Theater Foundation (NNTF) to perform as a chorus member in operas at the New National Theater, Tokyo.

In February 2003, as Yaegashi voiced complaints about the working conditions of chorus signers, the NNTF unilaterally terminated her contract and refused to negotiate with the union on the grounds that chorus singers are “not workers”.

Yaegashi in 2005 began fighting a legal battle over this issue. In April 2011, the Supreme Court recognized chorus singers as “workers”.

On December 24, 2015, Yaegashi concluded an out-of-court settlement with the theater management. Unfortunately, Yaegashi’s demand to rejoin the national theater’s chorus was denied. The NNTF, however, in the settlement document offered an apology for its refusal to engage in collective bargaining over the Yaegashi matter and promised to respond to the union’s demand for negotiations concerning the improvement of the working environment and the renewal of chorus singers’ contracts.

Welcoming the dispute resolution, Yaegashi and her supporters on February 10 held a gathering in Tokyo.

Yaegashi’s lawyer Miyazato Kunio explained the significance of the 13-year-long struggle which contributed to providing the understanding that musicians are workers and that their workers’ rights must be respected. Miyazato went on to stress that with Yaegashi’s determination to engage in a legal battle, it has been publicly acknowledged that to treat opera theater choristers as workers has become common practice in the international community.

Past related article:
> Top court recognizes musician as ‘worker’ [April 13, 2011]
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