Ministers mull settlement for JNR unionists

Transport minister Seiji Maehara said he and two other Cabinet ministers finalized a plan to settle a 23-year-old dispute over the refusal by Japan Railway companies to hire unionized workers from the former national railway.

Maehara said that he, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano held talks after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning and agreed on the plan to settle the workers’ compensation claims.

Maehara said he will brief Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama after obtaining consent from the Democratic Party of Japan, its two coalition partners and New Komeito.

The three ruling parties and the opposition party last month proposed a settlement package worth ¥23 billion to resolve the dispute, which stems from the 1987 privatization of the Japanese National Railways.

The proposal also asks JR companies to hire some 200 former JNR workers.

Hatoyama said at the time that the government had to study the proposal seriously, also stressing that many former JNR workers had endured hardship for the past 23 years.

The newly created railway companies refused to hire 1,047 workers, many of whom were members of the National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro).

The compromise deal urges Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an organization that inherited JNR’s debts, to pay some ¥23 billion as settlement money to former JNR workers.