The High Court upholds the ruling against dismissed JAL workers

June 10, 2014

On 3 and 5 June, the Tokyo High Court ruled against 71 former Japan Airlines (JAL) cabin crew and 70 former JAL pilots. The workers were seeking reinstatement after being dismissed as part of the airline’s corporate restructuring in the wake of its 2010 bankruptcy.

The court ruled: “the personnel cuts were necessary for the company’s continued existence,” upholding a lower court decision. The court also noted the company made efforts to avoid dismissals, such as soliciting voluntary retirements, and said its criteria for dismissal, such as age, were reasonable.

JAL filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2010 and cut 165 cabin attendants and pilots in December the same year as part of its restructuring efforts.

The former cabin attendants, aged between 36 and 62, and their union, the ITF-affiliated Japan Airlines Cabin Crew Union (CCU) argue that these workers were dismissed despite JAL having already reached its target for personnel cuts. But the court said the accuracy of data supporting that claim was questionable.

With profits boosted by these cost cutting measures, JAL has been able to hire 1820 cabin crew and has begun hiring trainee pilots. The company has rejected bargaining with unions to reinstate the dismissed.

In 2011 the CCU and the Japan Airlines Flight Crew Union (JFU) filed a complaint with the ILO. The ITF supported the complaint. The International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association made its recommendation in June 2012 that the company should negotiate with the unions when elaborating restructuring programmes, since they have a fundamental role to play in ensuring that programmes of this nature have the least negative impact on workers. However, the Japanese government as well as the airline has failed to implement the recommendation, claiming that the case is pending. After that, the Committee issued a following-up document to the GB319 in October 2013.

In a press statement the CCU said: “In line with government policy taken by the current Abe regime, it is clear that workers’ and union rights are fundamentally being deprived and facing critical danger, so that the prime minister can declare Japan to be the most business-friendly nation, following amendments of labour-related laws.”

The statement continued: “We are determined to stop these reactionary measures being used to accelerate the attacks. The plaintiffs and supporters in Japan are determined to make final appeals to the Supreme Court and further strengthen our campaign.”

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