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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 January 9 - 15  > RIKEN union blocks institute’s mass dismissals of non-regular workers
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2019 January 9 - 15 [LABOR]

RIKEN union blocks institute’s mass dismissals of non-regular workers

January, 9, 2019

The labor union at the National Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in 2018 successfully protected 345 non-regular workers from the institute’s mass dismissal plan.

RIKEN is Japan’s sole research body with a history of 100 years covering a broad range of natural sciences. As shown in the fact that Nobel laureates, Yukawa Hideki and Tomonaga Shin’ichiro, carried out their research there and the institution has often been described as “a paradise for scientists”.

In April 2016, RIKEN authorities changed the organization’s work rules and limited the period of contracts for non-regular workers to no more than five years. Evidently, this amendment was made in order to evade the revised Labor Contract Act which enables fixed-term employees to obtain open-ended contracts after five consecutive years of service.

Under the new work rules, RIKEN planned to terminate the contracts of 345 fixed-term workers by the end of March 2018 because they worked there for more than five years.

In response to this move, the RIKEN union began working to block the planned dismissal scheme and strengthened its efforts with the support of other unions. The Japanese Communist Party also took up this case in the Diet. In February 2018, at a House of Councilors meeting, the Education Minister replied to a question from JCP lawmaker Tamura Tomoko, indicating his intent to instruct RIKEN to negotiate with the union. After that, the RIKEN management announced its decision to withdraw the dismissal plan.

RIKEN’s new work rules also put a term limit of 10 years to contracts of part-time research workers in accordance with the revised Labor Contract Act under which fixed-term contracts for researchers can be made indefinite after 10 years of continuous employment.

With this rule change, more than 2,100 fixed-term workers in RIKEN laboratories will more likely be fired after 2023 in the sequential order of years they were hired, JCP Tamura revealed. Fixed-term staff play an important role in RIKEN research through their jobs, such as data analysis and the design and ordering of lab equipment. A mass dismissal of these workers would make it difficult for the institute to keep up with its research activities.

RIKEN union leader Kanai Yasuyuki said, “Seeking to abolish RIKEN’s unfair policy of unilateral termination of contracts, we will keep fighting. It, I believe, will contribute to the progress of Japan’s scientific research.”

Past related article:
> Union succeeds in having dismissal plan canceled at national institute [February 27, 2018]
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