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  • Japan Today: Naturalized Chinese sues Hitachi for contract nonrenewal

    Posted by arudou debito on December 19th, 2007

    Hi Blog. Here’s another lawsuit of note (sorry for not seeing it sooner).

    Note the errroneous headline. This person is not a Chinese worker. She is a naturalized Japanese citizen, therefore a Japanese. Bishibashi for the copy editor (and the translation is pretty hokey too).

    Quick comment follows article.

    ===================================

    Hitachi sued by Chinese worker
    Japan Today November 27, 2007
    http://www.japantoday.com/jp/shukan/424

    Hitachi is being sued for discrimination by a Chinese employee. The case is being watched by many major Japanese manufacturing companies because it’s quite a rare case that discrimination against their foreign workers becomes public.

    The plaintiff graduated from a Chinese university and obtained a masters degree at a Japanese university. She joined Hitachi in 1994, and obtained Japanese citizenship during her career there. She is now 58 years old.

    According to the plaintiff, after a one-year probation, she was hired by Hitachi and asked to work for a section dealing with China and assigned translation tasks. She was supposed to be given a full-time contract. But because of a working visa problem, she was given the status of a “non-regular staff,” which requires annual renewal of the contract. In April of 2004, Hitachi told her that they would not renew the contract.

    In June of 2006, she sued Hitachi, saying, “The one-year contract as a non-regular staff is just an ad hoc measure, and I was virtually working full-time. There is no justification for making me quit.” In her suit, she has requested “confirmation of her rights in the contract,” unpaid salaries and 10 million yen compensation.

    Hitachi says that she is just a non-regular worker whose contract had to be renewed annually and that the company let her go because her contract had finished.

    However, on Oct 15, the plaintiff invited a former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, Hidenori Sakanaka, who is now a specialist in foreign worker issues in Japan, to court. Sakanaka questioned Hitachi’s appeal, saying, “The plaintiff was given a special status called ‘Specialist in Humanities / International Services.’ This special status is given only to those who work as full-time staff and never given to ‘non-regular staff’ because ‘non-regular staff’ is not a legally recognized labor status.”

    A lawyer who specializes in corporate laws says, “It’s actually common for foreign workers to renew their employment contracts every three years in order to renew their visa. I think corporations generally don’t fire their foreign employees who work full-time.”

    Hitachi has refused further comments on the case, saying it is still a court matter. However, Sakanaka says the Hitachi case is the tip of the iceberg. Since China is an important market for Japanese companies, labor problems with Chinese employees could become more common from now on, he says. (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)
    ENDS
    ===========================

    COMMENT: The thing I don’t get about this article is that the plaintiff got Japanese citizenship while she was working at Hitachi, so why is visa and employment even an issue? Is she a Japanese worker or not? And did her work status not changed when she naturalized? And wow, this case is taking a long time, if she first filed suit in 2006!

    Anyway, her case might help bring about some consistancy in the arrayed grey zone between perpetually-renewed contracted NJ and part-time J workers–something employers have been using to keep their staff disposable at will. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    2 Responses to “Japan Today: Naturalized Chinese sues Hitachi for contract nonrenewal”

    1. TJJ Says:

      Yes Debito, strange indeed. I guess the most logical conclusion might be that the original reporter confused ‘permanent residency’ with ‘citizenship’.

      Alternatively, it might be that a question of law in the case requires them to look back a certain number of years (maybe to when she was first employed and still on a visa) to determine her true employment status back then. But if the latter is the case, there is still the glaring headline, and other references, to “Chinese” and “foreign” that are completely unwarranted.

      –QUITE. AND IF IT TURNS OUT THAT HER JOB STATUS WAS DETERMINED BY WHAT SHE WAS (A CHINESE CITIZEN) RATHER THAN WHAT SHE IS (A JAPANESE CITIZEN), THEN NATURALIZATION BECOMES WELL-NIGH MEANINGLESS, IF YOU CAN STILL BE TREATED AS A FOREIGNER IN THE WORKPLACE AFTERWARDS.

      ANYONE WILLING TO TRY TO TRACK DOWN THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE? I WILL TOO. I AGREE THAT SOMETHING DOESN’T QUITE ADD UP HERE.

    2. vegetablej Says:

      I think this is extremely positive. Even the fact that someone is willing to step into this arena and challenge these discriminatory employment policies is good. The more publicity of this sort brought to the problem means the greater liklihood of an eventual overhaul of the system, though in Japan eventual can sometimes be a long long time.

      I’ve long thought it shocking that the government mandates most immigrant workers to 1-year visas that make it extremely difficult to form a stable life here. One feels perpetually stressed, wondering if the visa will be renewed year to year (and therefore your ability to work and stay in the country), can’t get credit or a credit card easily, doesn’t feel part of anything except paying into the tax system and supporting the Japanese economy.

      We can’t easily get a license to drive a car after a year, have a huge job to find housing that will admit us and that we can afford, and then can be discriminated against and terminated at will by our employer because we are on short-term contracts. And it’s not a few isolated people; the system works against you whether you work in a university or a factory. It is an “equal opportunity” discriminator.

      The whole, which the government is complicit in by setting these perpetual 1-year visas, is geared to make life unstable, difficult and uncomfortable for immigrant workers, even if they are naturalized, while providing business with a tractable, cheap, and easily disposable labour pool. It seems there is no true equality unless you are born Japanese.

      The system is highly reprehensible and the more people are willing to speak out or take employers to court, the better for all of us. I admire this person’s gumption and thank her for her efforts.

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