Employees win suit against Tochigi farms for unpaid wages, unfair dismissals

A group of strawberry farmers will have to pay a combined 30 million yen in unpaid and overtime wages, and reinstate five Chinese trainees [members of Tokyo Nambu allies Zentoitsu Workers Union] who were unfairly dismissed after losing a class action suit brought against them by their employees.

The farmers have also acknowledged that they took away some of the trainees’ passports and forced them to save their wages: which, if proved, would constitute an illegal act, barring the farmers from accepting future trainees, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The trouble began when the Choboen strawberry farm in Tsuga dismissed five Chinese trainees in December last year because of a poor harvest, and attempted to force them to go back to their home country.

The five joined 10 trainees at six other strawberry farms in demanding 52.25 million yen in unpaid wages and overtime allowances over the past three years.

The owners of the seven farms have apologized for forcing the trainees to work for long hours and paying overtime allowances below the legal minimum. They agreed to pay a total of about 30 million yen to the 15, and Choboen retracted its dismissals.