TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Show Your Support for the KEK Six at the Courthouse in Tsuchiura- as they fight against their wage cut at Tsukuba`s High Energy Physics Laboratory

 

Outside the courthouse

Outside the courthouse in Tsuchiura. Hajime Nakamura and Masaki Tejima (along with 4 other plaintiffs) have suing KEK, the High Energy Physics Laboratory, claiming their salaries (and retirement payments) have been cut illegally

By Avi Landau

On Sunday December 14, democracy will be celebrated here in Japan on Election Day- as the right to freely choose and vote for ones representatives and judges will be excercized by all those who wish to do so – that is if they are over 20 years of age and happen to be Japanese citizens.

Then on the following day (Monday the 15th), ANYONE in Japan, no matter what nationality or age, will be able to take advantage of the freedoms available  here, by utilizing the right to visit the regional court-house in Tsuchiura, and attending the court-proceedings in which six employees (and retired employees) of Tsukuba`s world-famous High Energy  Physics Laboratory are in the process of suing their employer ( ostensibly the government of Japan) for illegaly cutting thier salaries and retirement payments.

Hajime

Hajime Nakamura, has worked as a radiation safety manager at KEK for more than 20 years. He was part of the team that supported Nobel Laureate Kobayashi, and after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima helped monitor radiation at schools, kindergartens and parks in Tsukuba, uploading all his data onto the internet. For all his efforts, his laboratory awarded him with a large salary cut.

I can hear you now: “Suing? In Japan? I thought there was no litigation here! Japanese workers are like sheep and do as they are told”.

Well, things are apparently starting to change. There are several other currently ongoing cases involving workers at research institutes and universities, people who salaries ultimately come from the national government, suing for wage cuts which they claim are unreasonable and illegal under Japan`s labor laws.

Though they have been able to break the unwritten taboo prohibiting civil servants from suing the government, the plaintiffs have found that suing in Japan is a very time-consuming undertaking !

My visit to one of the court sessions was shocking proof of that – and probably one of my most memorable experiences in Japan. Let me tell you about it.

I arrived at the court-house in Tsuchiura and was astounded to find that there was no security at all. Not even a receptionist. I found the trial on the schedule board which indicated which room the session would be held in and I went upstairs, entered the empty court-room, took a seat and waited. A few minutes later, a clerk arrived and started to tidy up the room. Other observers, and supporters of plaintiffs started trickle in. The trickle turned to a downpour and soon the visitors galley was full- standing room only.

At starting time, three robed judges (all women) took their seats at the long podium (up to that point I thought that the clerk woas the judge!).

The procedings were scheduled to last for 20 minutes. One question was asked. The attorney representing KEK looked and spoke more like a yakuza than a lawyer- loud, aggressive, and rough.

After the single question had been answered, the remaining time was spent with both sides plaintiffs and defendants trying to set the date of the next session- a month later. ” How about the 7th at 2 PM? Hmmmm,let me see……. No , that doesn`t work for us. How about on the 8th at 11 AM? No, impossible. How about……….”

Until time was up ! The same 20 minute session was held a month later, at the time and date which was eventually settled upon.

It has been going on like this for a year and a half (though last month there was a big 3 hour session!)

ATTENDING THE HEARING

Another 20- minute court session will be held on Monday December 15th 2014 at the court-house in Tsuchiura (水戸家庭裁判所土浦支部-Mito Chiho Saibansho Tsuchiura Shibu) just outside the grounds of the old  Tsuchiura Castle (Kijo Park).

The starting time will be at 10:30 AM, but the seating capacity is only about 40, so you should probably get there early ( I heard that last time dozens of people couldn`t get into the packed room).

At the session the judges will announce which witnesses will be giving testimony. The candidates are Mr. Nakamura- pictured above, Mr. Kamiya, the former director of the laboratory, who was responsible for making the labor agreements with the union and then cutting the salaries ( an important witness whom the KEK attorneys do not want to be called to the stand, as well as the leader of KEK`s labor union.

Should be exciting- but remember, most of the 20 minutes will probably be taken up deciding the date and time of the next 20 minute session.

And some bad news for our plaintiffs- a similar case brought to court by researchers at the Environmental Research Institute in Tsukuba ended with a decision favoring the institute and rejecting the researchers` claims.

The judge who made the ruling on that case is the same one presiding over the KEK suit !

Does not look good ! So give the men some support! You can do so by attending the trial or by signing a petition- they have already gathered 30,000 signatures.

MORE DETAILS ON THE CASE LATER

It is my aim tonight to give you information about the upcoming hearing and urge you to attend. In the near future, I will try to give you a better picture of what both sides are claiming and how suing actually works in Japan.

if you can`t wait you can go to this PDF put online by the Japanese Ministry of Justice detailing civil court procedures in Japan. Here is the URL:

 

http://www.courts.go.jp/english/vcms_lf/20140417-civil-design.pdf

 

 



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