Kohkuren-affiliated JCU blames KLM’s employment practice as illegal 28 cabin crew go to court challenging their termination of employment

February 19, 2019

Photo: Lawyers and members of the JCU entering the court with a banner saying “Never Allow KLM to Treat CAs as Expendables!”


Kohkuren*-affiliated JCU blames KLM’s employment practice as illegal 28 cabin crew go to court challenging their termination of employment


On 26 December 2018, 19 members of Japan Cabin Crew Union (JCU) at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) based in Japan filed a claim to the Tokyo District Court for a withdrawal of termination of employment. In February 2019, 9 more crew members joined the court fight to continue working for KLM.


Over the past 30 years, KLM has hired Japanese cabin crew on a fixed-term contract and replaced them every 4 or 5 years. Japanese cabin crew members operating between Holland and Japan have completed the same training course and, in flight, perform exactly the same work as their Dutch colleagues.  While they are permanent employees, all Asian cabin crew including Japanese nationals are hired on fixed-term contracts.


Although the company says that such practice is the “KLM Policy”, we believe that it may conflict with the OECD guideline 1.e) of section V, ‘prohibition of racial discrimination’. Moreover, the OECD guideline, 4.a) of section V states that [multinational enterprises should] “Observe standards of employment and industrial relations not less favorable than those observed by comparable employers in the host country”. We feel there is a case to claim that KLM may also be in breach of this.


The Japanese Labor Contract Act was revised in 2013 to allow fixed-term contract employees to apply for conversion to employment without a fixed-term after working more than 5 years with the same company. The revised law prohibits employers to terminate the contract if an employee expects renewal of his/her contract on rational grounds. The law also requires maintaining the same employment conditions to the renewed contract.  Based on these laws, JCU has been negotiating with KLM to achieve conversion to employment without a fixed-term, however, the company terminated the contracts of 42 union members since July 2018 and recruited new cabin crew to fill in the gap.


Ms Noriko Kiya, President of JCU commented: “In Japan, 90 percent of cabin crew employed by the Japanese airlines are permanent employees and the remaining 10 percent who have fixed-term contracts could have their contract changed to the permanent status after 2 or 3 years of service. During negotiations, the company explains that they employ Japanese cabin crew only on fixed-term basis, because the Dutch Law admits the work permit only for fixed-term contract workers.”


“However, our in-depth investigation has revealed it is not true. Therefore, we believe we have a good reason to pursue indefinite employment for our members at KLM. At the same time, we appeal strongly to the ITF members of the world over the unfair and evasive tactic of the company’s employment practice to avoid the Japanese Labor Law. Also, we do appreciate your understanding and support to our fight.”


* Kohkuren: Japan Federation of Aviation Workers’ Unions brings together 40 aviation unions (7,500 workers) representing pilots, cabin crew, mechanics, ground handlers, and other categories of aviation workers, and affiliated with International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) in 2014.


Leave a Reply