A group of 146 former Japan Airlines Corp. pilots and flight attendants filed a lawsuit Wednesday with the Tokyo District Court seeking to nullify their dismissals by the carrier at the end of last month.

“It is an absolutely unforgivable act. Many of those who were dismissed are people who supported the carrier for years,” Kazuya Chikamura, head of the Japan Federation of Aviation Worker’s Union, said at a news conference attended by more than 140 laid-off pilots, flight attendants and their lawyers.

“We will fight to win the right to return them to their former workplace as soon as possible,” Chikamura said.

The plaintiffs — 74 pilots and 72 attendants — were among 165 pilots and flight attendants who received pink slips Dec. 31 after JAL failed to reach its job-reduction target through voluntary retirement.

Those who got the ax were selected by age — 55 and above for captains, 48 and above for copilots and 53 and above for cabin attendants — as well as by the number of sick days they took and other factors.

The plaintiffs claim the decision to fire them was unjust, arguing their dismissal didn’t meet the criteria needed for contract termination, including whether it was really necessary and whether JAL made every effort to avoid the dismissals.

The carrier’s decision to lay off the plaintiffs was “invalid and unjust. There were other ways than dismissing them,” lawyer Izumi Yamaguchi said.

“Also, the decision was made based on the number of sick leaves they took and also on their age,” he said. “It is illegitimate.”

Under the rehabilitation plan approved by the Tokyo District Court on Nov. 30, JAL is to shed about 16,000 jobs, or some 30 percent of the JAL group’s combined workforce, by the end of March.

The carrier has been offering early retirement since March, and pilots and flight attendants were the only positions that fell short of the target.

JAL management “sees us only as a cost. They didn’t consider the quality of our work and the level of our skills,” said Hiroya Yamaguchi, one of the dismissed pilots.

The former flag carrier filed for bankruptcy protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law exactly a year ago and has been undergoing court-led rehabilitation.

JAL is planning to complete the restructuring process by the end of March and aims to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange by the end of 2012.

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