Dispute Resolution Systems and Collective Bargaining: From the perspective of disputes over dismissal

Author Name KAMBAYASHI Ryo  (Hitotsubashi University)
Creation Date/NO. May 2008 08-J-021
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When the Japanese economy went into recession in the 1990s, the number of employees dismissed by companies increased dramatically while the ratio of disputes over dismissals, in the form of labor action and lawsuits, has been in continuous decline since that time. It is true that overall the ratio of lawsuits in relation to the number of dismissals has increased since 2002, but this is because of the reduced cost of access to judicial resources owing to the opening of labor consultation service centers, and not because of any disturbance to legal norms. Thus, looking at dismissal disputes, the case law, particularly in regard to unfair dismissals, has been securely established and continues to provide a stable social norm in the Japanese labor markets. It is important to notice that many of the dismissal cases have been contended as class actions, and collective bargaining has provided the key mechanism of case law for dismissals in Japan. Therefore when we find the relative number of labor lawsuits filed by individuals increasing, as opposed to collective labor action, we have to be cautious that it is not clear what kind of role collective bargaining is playing here. Although current labor laws and regulations depend largely on establishing social norms based upon collective bargaining, studying the course of disputes over dismissals may enable us to present points of discussion with regard to the form that collective bargaining should take.