Train Driver Who Had Pay Cut After One-Minute Delay Awarded 45 Cents After His Death

Rachel Lang

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Train Driver Who Had Pay Cut After One-Minute Delay Awarded 45 Cents After His Death

Featured Image Credit: Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo. Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo.

A Japanese train driver who accused his employer of unfairly docking his pay has won his case in court, weeks after he passed away from an undisclosed illness.

The court ordered he be paid back 56 yen ($AUD 0.61, £0.35, $USD0.45).

In June 2020, West Japan Railway driver Hirofumi Wada was supposed to drive an empty train to the depot, but accidentally wound up on the wrong platform.

His error led to the train departing one minute later than scheduled, which caused a delay for Japan's strict train timetable.

West Japan Railway argued that he wasn't working during that one minute and subtracted that time from his payslip.

One year after he filed his suit against West Japan Railway, a court in Okayama ruled in favour of Wada.

While the court did order West Japan Railway to return the 56 yen to Wada, they dismissed his additional compensation claim of 2.2 million yen ($AUD 24,073, £13,665) for emotional distress.

A Japanese bullet train. Credit: Trevor Mogg / Alamy Stock Photo
A Japanese bullet train. Credit: Trevor Mogg / Alamy Stock Photo

General secretary for West Japan Railway Workers Union Goto Maekawa said it was 'very clear Wada was still working during that one disputed minute'.

The union rep added that enforcing employee punctuality in such a strict manner was a way for train companies to control their staff.

"It’s a way to constantly watch your employees, and if they make a mistake, they’d carry out pretty severe punishments, like pay cuts or layoffs, even make you write reports to say you’ll never make that mistake again," he told VICE World News. 

He added: "Over time, it causes a lot of mental distress for employees because they’re so afraid of making a mistake."

While the tiny compensation was minuscule, Maekawa said the amount of money had never mattered to Wada.

"Before Wada passed, he often said that he was going to court over this for his kouhai (junior employees)," he said. 

"He wanted his case to improve the working environments for younger generations."

Japan is known for its efficient train services - but expectations of perfect punctuality have led to a climate of fear for employees and has even caused accidents.

In 2021,VICE also reported on a 36-year-old bullet train driver who was reprimanded for temporarily leaving the train's cockpit.

The Amagasaki derailment. Credit: Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo
The Amagasaki derailment. Credit: Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo

There were 160 passengers were on board, with the train traveling at 150 kilometres per hour.

The man was suffering from stomach pains, but couldn't bring himself to halt the train before heading to the toilet.

Back in 2005, a West Japan Railway train derailed and killed 106 passengers in the Amagasaki derailment, one of Japan's worst train accidents in history.

An investigation found the train was going over the speed limit on a bend, likely because the train was running late.

Prior to the accident, the 23-year-old driver had already been disciplined twice for running behind schedule.

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Topics: News, World News

Rachel Lang
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