Court nullifies JR rehiring order

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday nullified a 1987 Central Labor Relations Commission order for the Japan Railway group companies to employ or compensate unionists who were not rehired when the Japanese National Railways was privatized.

The court ruled on two separate lawsuits, filed in 1994 and 1995 by a total of six privatized railways — East Japan Railway Co., West Japan Railway Co., Hokkaido Railway Co., Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), Kyushu Railway Co. and Japan Freight Railway Co.

The rulings were handed down the same day in two separate courtrooms: one for the lawsuit filed by the Kyushu and Hokkaido carriers, and the other for the Honshu railways. In the ruling for the Honshu group, presiding Judge Saburo Takase said JR companies were responsible for selecting personnel to start up their new entities but were not obligated to compensate JNR workers who were not rehired.

The ruling handed down by presiding Judge Yasushige Hagio, however, said the Kyushu and Hokkaido carriers were not responsible for personnel decisions following the JNR privatization, thereby nullifying the commission’s order.

The commission had upheld the employees’ argument that the dismissals represented an unfair labor practice because they targeted members of the National Railway Workers’ Union (Kokuro), and that the privatized firms, and not JNR, should be held responsible.

A total of 1,047 employees were fired in March 1990 as a result of the scrapping of JNR for reorganization into the current Japan Railway group, including the six regional carriers. Kokuro members accounted for 966 of those fired. Both the commission and Kokuro plan to appeal the rulings.

In the Honshu case, Takase said if unfair practices were involved in selecting employees, JR companies will be held responsible, but “the commission could only order the firms to repeat their employment process.”

The judge said, however, that the commission’s order for the companies to rehire some of the trade unionists is illegal.