JR East settles Kokuro wage discrimination row

East Japan Railway Co. has reached a settlement in a dispute over wage discrimination against workers belonging to a union that opposed the 1987 privatization and breakup of the national railway service, according to company and union sources.

Under to a deal reached through a government mediation panel, JR East will pay an undisclosed settlement in exchange for the union, known as Kokuro, to withdraw 23 petitions for redress filed with labor arbitration panels for what they see as discrimination against promotion, the sources said.

JR East, one of the six regional railways that emerged from the breakup, had stood firm in the battle with unionized workers of Japanese National Railways.

The settlement could impact other labor disputes and lawsuits between union members and regional operators of the JR group.

Although JR East and Kokuro have not disclosed the sum of the settlement, it is estimated to be around 360 million yen.

The settlement, reached Oct. 31, covers 23 petitions filed with the Central Labor Relations Commission, the top government labor mediation body, and the mediation body of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the sources said.

The petitions, filed after 1991, affect around 1,800 union members in six prefectures.

From these petitions, discrimination against unionized workers was recognized in three prefectures — Kanagawa, Tokyo and Akita, and a local mediation panel issued an order for redress to compensate involved workers.