YAMAGUCHI – The Yamaguchi District Court ruled Wednesday that Mazda Motor Corp.’s temp-staff employment practice is illegal and recognized regular employee status for 13 former temp-staff workers displaced by the automaker.
The rare recognition that displaced temporary workers should be regular employees is expected to affect similar pending lawsuits. The court also ordered Mazda to pay wages that the 13 should have received as regular employees.
The temp-staff worker law requires companies to directly employ workers dispatched by temporary staffing agencies if the employees continue work at the firms for three consecutive years.
Under its temp-staff employment practice, Mazda directly employed temporary workers as “support employees” for just three months after their three consecutive years of service, later shifting their status back to temps.
The practice to effectively maintain workers as temporary staff for more than three years violated the temp-staff worker law, the court said.
The ruling came in a suit filed by 15 plaintiffs — some of whom worked as temporary staff at Mazda’s Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture for up to five years and seven months before being displaced during or after the outbreak of the global financial crisis in December 2008.
The court found 13 of the 15 plaintiffs as subject to the support employee system and recognized them as regular employees.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in April 2009, claiming that Mazda had been adjusting the hiring period to be less than three years by temporarily hiring temp-staff employees as regular employees for about three months under the “support employee” system.
The plaintiffs said the system allowed Mazda to “hire skilled temp workers for a long time but fire them whenever they wanted,” calling the act “loophole.”
Meanwhile, Mazda had claimed that temp workers had accepted to work as temp staff and “support employee” positions out of their own volition.
“Mazda had not intended it, and therefore, it does not violate the law,” Mazda’s lawyers said in court.
Mazda called the decision regrettable, adding that it will consider what to do after pouring over the content of the ruling.
In June 2009, the Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectural labor bureaus recommended that Mazda correct the “support employee” system.
Shinji Eto, 48, one of the plaintiffs who had been displaced by Mazda, told the court last April that he just wanted to live a normal life, being paid for his work and occasionally being able to go out for drinks with friends.
“I want to say with pride that producing cars at Mazda is my job,” Eto said. “I just want to live a normal life.”