900 axed JNR unionists may get ¥29.5 million each

Kyodo News

A 23-year-old dispute over the dismissal of unionized workers at the Japanese National Railways may finally be heading toward a resolution now that the ruling bloc and an opposition party have drafted a ¥27 billion settlement plan.

The package, hammered out Tuesday by the three coalition partners and New Komeito, calls for a payment of ¥29.5 million each to about 900 former JNR workers who have sued over their dismissal and asks the current Japan Railway companies to hire about 230 of them who are 55 years old or younger, according to sources.

In exchange, the workers will drop their lawsuits.

The proposed ¥27 billion payout would be undertaken by the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an independent administrative agency that inherited JNR’s debts after it was privatized and split up in 1987.

Representatives of the railway agency and the National Railway Workers Union, known as Kokuro, are expected to sign a compromise deal based on the package, the sources said.

The draft accord penned by the coalition of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, Kokumin Shinto and New Komeito says the dismissed workers who belong to labor unions that opposed JNR’s privatization should be compensated “from a humanitarian point of view.”

In December 2003, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Central Labor Relations Commission, the government’s top labor mediation body, asking JR firms to hire the dismissed workers on the grounds that JR firms can’t be held responsible for improper labor practices by JNR.