Ricoh Forced By Japanese Courts To Reinstate 100 Workers

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Ricoh Forced By Japanese Courts To Reinstate 100 Workers

 user admin 2014-07-22 at 11:51:41 am Views: 347
  • #29701

    Ricoh Forced By Japanese Courts To Reinstate 100 Workers
    Ruling forces Ricoh to revoke transfer orders for 'banished' workers
    Ricoh cancels transfer orders for 100 workers


    In a decision expected to sound an alarm bell for many other companies, Ricoh Co. will reinstate 100 or so employees whom it demoted because they would not apply for an early-retirement program.

    The decision came amid a growing public outcry and after settlement negotiations following a Tokyo District Court ruling that determined Ricoh had abused its authority to manage personnel in issuing the transfer order.
    A labor union representative shows a victory sign after the Tokyo District Court found that Ricoh Co.’s transfer orders for two employees were invalid in November 2013. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
    A labor union representative shows a victory sign after the Tokyo District Court found that Ricoh Co.’s transfer orders for two employees were invalid. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

    The employees were moved to sections where they were forced to perform physical labor despite having been on white-collar career tracks. They will return to their former workplace or elsewhere as early as this autumn, sources said.

    Other blue-chip companies, such as Panasonic Corp., Sony Corp. and NEC Corp., have used similar tactics, generally known as "banishment rooms," to goad employees into retiring voluntarily.

    In 2011, Ricoh unveiled a plan to trim 10,000 jobs in its offices and group companies, about 10 percent of its entire work force, by the end of March 2014.

    The company solicited applications from 1,600 workers for the early-retirement program as part of its streamlining efforts.

    But in reality, Ricoh singled out specific employees and recommended that they resign voluntarily.

    After 152 of the workers refused to comply, they were issued transfer orders to different sections where they were forced to do manual labor. The employees were all in their 40s and 50s.

    Seven of the employees who were transferred filed lawsuits contending the transfer orders were invalid.

    In November, the Tokyo District Court handed down a decision in favor of two of the plaintiffs.

    The court said the order to transfer them to a logistics company in the Ricoh group “was issued with the expectation that they would voluntarily quit.”

    Ricoh appealed the ruling, but agreed to the court-mediated settlement at the Tokyo High Court on July 18.

    Ricoh said the two employees will be reassigned to a workplace where they can use their previous white-collar work experience effective Aug. 1.

    The company said it will also reassign the five other employees who also sued the company, as well as any others whom the company moved elsewhere against their wishes.

    Although 152 employees were forced to transfer under the company’s restructuring plan, about 50 have already voluntarily resigned.

    That brings the number of employees who will be affected by the recent decision to about 100.

    The two plaintiffs who reached a settlement at the Tokyo High Court were hired as engineers and involved in developing electronics parts. One is in his 40s and the other in his 50s.

    “I am happy to be able to return to a job where I can put my past experience to good use,” said a man who spent three years at a logistics company after he was transferred, where he inspected and packaged completed products.

    The other man developed depression and took sick leave after being transferred and pressured to resign.

    He hailed Ricoh’s decision to cancel the transfer orders.

    “I would like Ricoh to remain a company that treasures human resources,” he said.

    The labor ministry investigated 13 companies, including Ricoh, Panasonic, Sony and NEC, in 2013 after The Asahi Shimbun reported on so-called banishment rooms where workers are given positions unrelated to their previous jobs on expectations they will quit. But further details have not been determined.

    The companies moved to take such steps after business took a nose-dive after the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment firm Lehman Brothers.

    (This article was written by Aki Sato and senior staff writer Takehiko Sawaji.)