Protest against Japanese legal injustice and judicial sexism
UTokyo staff union November 2018
The Japanese legal justice system has long been internationally notorious for its characteristic inactivism and ostensible neutralism. Non-intervention to private contractual affairs might sound benign, yet effectively sides with the bullies by refusing to protect the victims. Such judicial absenteeism deprives the Japanese society of law and order, benefiting the powerful, the wealthy, the unethical, and the hateful, by neglecting the rights and the interests of the poor, the powerless, the honest, and the disadvantaged.
The new labour contract law in Japan stipulates that any employee, full- or part-time, be made permanent if (s)he so wishes after five years of service. Needless to explain, the spirit of this law is to stabilise employment and thus to solidate the status of those employees previously on temporary, fixed-term contracts. Regrettably, however, there are many, albeit not most, employers wishing to circumnavigate this law by hiring temporary employees on contracts shorter than five years, at the end of which these employees are forced to leave, not because their jobs disappear but simply to preclude them from legitimate contractual extension, replacing them with a new batch who are again offered the same fate. Obviously, these employers disrespect the spirit of the law.
Kochi Prefectural University is one of these questionable employers. Recently, however, the court of law dismissed the suit against the university. The ruling failed to heed the official warning statement by the Ministry of Health and Labour that termination and replacement of workers on temporary contracts in an attempt to prevent their conversion to more permanent status, be regarded inappropriate. We, alongside all workers and unions in Japan, are gravely concerned if this recent court injustice establishes a precedent of failure to enforce the labour contract law.
In labour-related cases, judicial inactivism invariably sides with the abusive employers at the expense of the abused employees. It is the working public, however, whose tax money feeds the legal system, the court of law and those very judges who persistently issue worker-unfriendly rulings. True that legal justice must remain politically neutral. Untrue that legal justice must remain indifferent to the wellbeing of the tax-paying public. Much like any other public servants, judges must also learn to act on behalf of all of us, the working general public, not exclusively on behalf of the rich and the ruthless.
The world today suffers growing socioeconomic disparity. Japan is no exception. Not surprisingly, a society with an incompetent legal justice system proves defenseless against the landslide of inequality. Japan’s gender wage disparity (as much as 27 percent in 2016),
much of which owes to the discrimination against temps and part-timers, should be largely attributed to the country’s judicial ineptitude.
The Gender Gap Index, wherein Japan has defaced its ostensibly civilised national facade by earning the shocking 114th place out of the 144 participant countries worldwide, highlights the magnitude and the seriousness of socioeconomic inequality in the troubled nation. Whodunit: the lawmakers, the government, or the judiciary? Surely the Dishonest Abe administration is amongst the worst in postwar Japan, albeit not necessarily amongst the worst on the lonely planet. True that thieves and pervs have held high-powered positions in the government which, however, is pandemic worldwide, even including the White House and the Federal Supreme Court. Contrarily, the Japanese court of law is indeed an endangered species against the global standards, lucky if counted among the best 114 in the contemporary world.
Hence Japanese legal injustice is not only national disgrace, but a formidable obstacle to the nation’s economic wellbeing and growth by hindering socioeconomic equality. The ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of all nationals, in that the national public opinions have traditionally been unduly lenient to the legal justice system compared to their outspokenness at the national politics and the government. The recent unjust ruling shall hopefully trigger the belated national and international public criticism against Japan’s judicial incompetence, which has long been undeserving of the nation’s ostensible “developed country” status.