Axed JNR ranks OK ¥22 million apiece

Kyodo News

Representatives of unionists Friday formally accepted a deal in which the government would pay each worker roughly ¥22 million, bringing to an end a 23-year dispute over Japan Railway companies’ refusal to hire them.

The ruling parties and New Komeito presented the roughly ¥20 billion settlement package, which was worked out with the government Thursday, to the National Railway Workers Union, known as Kokuro, and related bodies Friday morning. The union confirmed the acceptance of the deal in the afternoon.

The four parties had proposed asking the JR firms to hire some 200 former workers of the state-run Japanese National Railways, which was privatized and divided into the JR group in 1987.

But given the successor JR companies’ reluctance over the hiring, the government said in its settlement proposal it cannot guarantee the employment of every worker requested because it cannot force the carriers to hire them.

The four parties’ suggestion that subsidies be paid to some of the JR companies if they agree to hire the former workers did not make it into the proposal.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama “approved the outline” of the proposal, transport minister Seiji Maehara told reporters after briefing the prime minister on it in the afternoon.

Maehara is expected to announce the government’s acceptance of the deal shortly.

Under the deal, Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an organization that inherited debts from JNR, would pay roughly ¥22 million per worker to 910 households involved in the litigation. This includes plaintiffs and surviving family members.

The plaintiffs are among 1,047 workers JNR’s successor companies refused to hire upon its privatization, many of them members of Kokuro.

Of the ¥20 billion to be paid to the former workers, roughly ¥14.2 billion would go toward paying for the damages awarded in a ruling in March 2009 and litigation fees, and about ¥5.8 billion for Kokuro and other related bodies to help the former workers find jobs.

Last month, the Democratic Party of Japan and its two coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party, as well as New Komeito had proposed to the government a settlement package that would pay about ¥24 million per worker.

The government then presented the parties with a plan to pay roughly ¥20 million per worker, after considering the amounts of compensation paid in previous liability cases in which the state was involved. The amount was later raised to ¥22 million per worker after negotiations between them.

The settlement money would be paid if the plaintiffs drop their cases.