Top court settles 23-year JNR unionist suit

Kyodo News

A 23-year-long dispute over the refusal by Japan Railways group companies to hire 1,047 former unionized workers of the old Japanese National Railways came to an end Monday in a legal settlement reached at the Supreme Court.

The settlement was reached at the top court’s Third Petty Bench following a political settlement in April, when a key JNR union accepted a government compromise package calling for paying a total of some ¥20 billion, or about ¥22 million per worker.

Under the settlement package, the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an organization that inherited debts and claims for JNR, will pay about ¥20 billion, except about ¥2.9 billion already paid in related suits, to 904 plaintiffs on Wednesday.

In return, the plaintiffs will drop their suits at the Tokyo district and high courts.

JNR was privatized and divided into the JR group companies in 1987.

With the settlement, the focus will move to JR’s employment of former JNR workers.

The plaintiffs and their lawyers released a statement saying they will do their utmost to secure employment for former JNR workers.

But given the reluctance of JR companies to hire the former workers, the government said in its settlement proposal that it can’t guarantee employment for every former worker because it can’t force the companies to hire them.

Transport minister Seiji Maehara issued a statement saying he welcomes the settlement from the viewpoint of humanitarianism.

According to the National Railway Workers Union, known as Kokuro, which was the biggest labor union at JNR, six of the 910 plaintiffs refused to agree to the settlement and said they will continue their court battles.

Of the 904 plaintiffs, 322 want to be re-employed at JR group companies, its affiliated firms and other concerns, according to Kokuro.