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News from Zenroren Women Bureau
Determined to make 2013 a year of victory in the struggle against JAL dismissals - Women activists carry out their New Year Action.

photoWomen’s organizations carried out their first action of the new year on January 10 to demand that Japan Airlines revoke the unjustifiable dismissals of its flight attendants and pilots.

The women’s section of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) is part of a group of women’s organizations calling for JAL’s unfair labor practice to be revoked.

About 50 people from 18 organizations took to the streets in the upscale Ginza district of central Tokyo, carrying big banners, placards and tapestry to condemn the unjustifiable dismissals of Japan Airlines workers.

They handed out flyers with slogans: “No freedom to fire workers!”, “Keep air travel safe!” and “Defend women’s right to keep their jobs!”

Dismissed JAL workers have filed a lawsuit against the company. They appealed a district court decision to the Tokyo High Court.

Participants in the action asked passers-by to give their signatures in support of the request that the court pass a fair ruling leading to a victory for the workers.

Obata Masako (Head of Zenroren Women Bureau) speaks out

OBATA Masako, head of the women bureau of Zenroren spoke as follows:

Two years have passed since 84 cabin attendants and 81 pilots were dismissed by Japan Airlines on December 31, 2010. These workers who were forced out of work are the ones who had been working hard for the safety of air transportation. Their human dignity was damaged. I suspect that forced to change their way of life. Despite these difficulties, they rose to a struggle against the illegitimate dismissals bringing their case to court demanding that the fired workers be reinstated.

The JAL dismissals are illegitimate in that they do not meet the four requirements for dismissing workers. It is also outrageous that the reasons the company gave for dismissing the workers were age and the use of sick leave. Among the 84 fired cabin attendants, 64 were 53 years of age or over, and 20 were on sick leave. Ninety percent of cabin attendants, who were fired because they were 53 or older, are members of the JAL Cabin Crew Union.

Members of the JAL CCU are those who have consistently pointed to anything that is wrong ever since female cabin attendants were forced to quit their jobs at 30 as a matter of course. Among the plaintiffs, 29 sought to work and bring up their children at the same time and won a right for women to keep their jobs while fulfilling their family responsibilities. Their struggle made it possible for women to continue their career at JAL until retirement age.

In 1999, the Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave was revised, and women were exempted from late night work. At that time, JAL gave only 75 workers chosen in a drawing the right to be exempted from late night work. The CCU campaigned to force the company to allow all applicants for the exemption. The company was forced to accept the demand. These are part of women workers’ struggles.

Historically, the working women’s movement has won various important rights for protecting motherhood, such as maternity leave, childcare leave, and reduced workloads for pregnant women workers. We have also overcome various kinds of discriminatory treatment of women such as forcing women to agree to early retirement, to quit jobs after marriage, or quit jobs after giving birth. The present illegal dismissals by JAL go against the struggle against women’s discrimination, an attack on women workers.

In its unjustifiable ruling, the district court gave the view that women are working to make supplementary the family budget. This is tantamount to affirming discrimination against women. Abandoning its role of handing down fair rulings, the court only accepted allegations made by JAL. We are all infuriated by the anachronistic ruling.

The Tokyo High Court is now examining the appeal. In the first oral proceedings on December 14, 2012, UCHIDA Taeko, the leader of the plaintiffs’ group, made a statement. She said, “Twenty-seven months have passed since we were forced out of flights. Cabin attendants have a right to decide when to end career.” Yes, a worker has a right to decide whether to keep his or her job. We must stop any attempt to deprive the workers of the right.

I am an elementary school teacher. Extremely long hour work and heavy workloads are prevalent in many elementary schools in this country. The 12-hour work day is not rare for elementary school teachers.

Female teachers who have the responsibility to raise their own children are complaining about their situation saying they may have had to give up childbirth.

photoWe are facing a very tough situation. But we feel it worthwhile and joyful to work as educators discussing dreams and the future with children at school. However, we fear that we may face difficulty in continuing career for reasons such as health problems, family problems and their personal problems. Workers have organized their unions and women’s sections to prevent such catastrophe by joining forces to develop the movement to establish various institutions to protect our rights. Let me repeat. It is workers themselves who decide on their retirement.

I believe that all working women share the view that the struggle to force JAL to revoke the illegal dismissals is a struggle in the interest of all fighting women workers well as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against JAL.

Let us fight until we win a victorious ruling at the Tokyo High Court.

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