Japan’s train system is legendary for its punctuality. A simple search on the internet will give you countless tales of the country’s network of Shinkansen ‘Bullet’ trains and its obsession with being on time. Written apology notes are issued for even the smallest of delays. In fact, back in 2019, a train departed from a station 25 seconds ahead of schedule that made the organization issue apologies, and even train the staff to prevent it from happening again. Crazy, right? Imagine the work pressure on those responsible for the rail network’s impeccable punctuality – correctly pointed out by a recent case. A locomotive driver for the West Japan Railway Company (or JR West) has is suing his employer after an amount of ¥43 (or $0.38) was withheld from his wages over a one-minute delay.
According to a report by The Guardian, the unnamed JR West driver was given the task to take an empty train to a depot at Okayama. However, he realized he was waiting at the wrong platform, which reportedly held up the scheduled driver switch at the correct platform by one minute. The confusion also caused another one-minute delay to the train’s arrival at the depot, which was unacceptable to the company that strictly follows the rule of “no work, no pay.” JR West said it was entitled to dock the driver’s pay as he had not been working during the mix-up.
JR West initially held back pay for both minutes, but the fine was reduced after it was challenged by the driver through a local labor authority. However, the driver wasn’t happy with it and refused to accept the penalty by claiming the delay was not his fault but a simple ‘human error.’ The driver is reportedly suing the company for the docked ¥43 along with an additional ¥13 ($0.11) in overtime pay for a total of $0.49 in unpaid wages. He is also seeking $19,300 in damages for distress brought about as a result of the whole episode. What do you think, is the driver correct in suing JR West?