Ruling parties to pull out of JNR accord

The three ruling parties said Friday they will withdraw from an agreement with the Social Democratic Party aimed at resolving a 16-year dispute between former workers of the defunct Japanese National Railways and Japan Railway group firms, coalition officials said.

The Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party will convey their decision to the SDP, which is liaising between the government and the 20,000-member National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro), at a meeting of the four parties early next week.

The agreement seeks a political settlement to the bickering over the firing of thousands of workers in the 1987 privatization of JNR and its subsequent breakup into JR firms.

The May 2000 pact says the ruling bloc will ask the JR group firms to hire Kokuro members fired in the privatization of JNR on condition that Kokuro admits that JR firms bear no legal responsibility for not employing them.

The ruling coalition has urged the union to expel members who are opposed to the proposal.

But the union decided to postpone the expulsion at a Nov. 25 convention, saying there are nearly 300 members opposed and determining their views takes time.

The coalition said it will withdraw the proposal because the union failed to expel them.

In January last year, Kokuro accepted the settlement plan by a vote of 78 to 40 at its fourth convention.

But the union split was deep, as 283 members sued Japan Railway Construction Public Corp., which took over from JNR Settlement Corp., in January this year for damages related to their dismissal.

The ruling bloc warned Kokuro on April 26 that it would withdraw the proposal if the union did not accept it by May 30.

On May 27, Kokuro agreed to drop lawsuits against JR companies on behalf of former JNR workers who were dismissed in the 1987 privatization, and said it would decide on the expulsion of opponents within the union at a regular convention.