National Railway Workers' Union

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National Railway Workers' Union
Native nameKokutetsu-rōdō-kumiai
Members13,000 (2011)
Affiliation National Trade Union Council

The National Railway Workers' Union (NRU) (国鉄労働組合, Kokutetsu-rōdō-kumiai) is a Japanese trade union, which is usually referred to as Kokurō (国労) in Japanese. As of 2011, it had 13,000 members. [1]



Kokuro was a major union in post-war Japan, representing many workers who worked for Japanese National Railways (JNR), from which the union takes its name. When the privatization of JNR was proposed in the mid 1980s, Kokuro was strongly opposed and campaigned against it. The campaign was unsuccessful and JNR was privatized in 1987, and replaced by the Japan Railways Group (JR Group).

Lists of workers to be employed by the new organizations were drawn up by JNR and given to the JR companies. There was substantial pressure on union members to leave their unions, and within a year, Kokuro's membership fell from 200,000 to 44,000. Workers who had supported the privatization, or those who left Kokuro, were hired at substantially higher rates than Kokuro members. [2]

JNR dismissal lawsuit


Kokuro and the National Railway Locomotive Engineers' Union (Zendoro), both prominent Japanese railway unions, represented a number of the JNR workers. There was a government pledge that no one would be "Thrown out onto the street", [3] so unhired workers were classified as "needing to be employed" and were transferred to the JNR Settlement Corporation, where they could be assigned for up to three years. [4]

Around 7,600 workers were transferred in this way, and around 2,000 of them were hired by JR firms, and 3,000 found work elsewhere. Mitomu Yamaguchi, a former JNR employee from Tosu in Saga prefecture who had been transferred to the JNR Settlement Corporation, later stated that their help in finding work consisted of giving him photocopies of recruitment ads from newspapers. [5]

This period ended in April 1990, and 1,047 were dismissed. This included 64 Zendoro members and 966 Kokuro members. [6] [7]


Many lawsuits and labor commission cases were filed over the decades from the privatization in 1987. 23 years after the original privatization, on June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court settled the dispute between the workers and the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, the successor body to the JNR Settlement Corporation. The agency said it would pay 20 billion yen, approximately 22 million yen per worker, to 904 plaintiffs. However, as the workers were not reinstated, it was not a full settlement. [8]

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