The gist is that IBM’s new president for the (wholly-owned) IBM Japan unit, Martin Jetter, has instituted a policy of restructuring since he arrived in Tokyo in May. What is described in the article are American-style summary dismissals, which is extremely curtailed under Japanese Labor Standards Law. (You basically can’t do that sort of thing to a regular employee or “sei sha-in”. This is why the article headlines it as “rokku autto gata” or “lock out type”.)
Three of the people who were victimized in this way filed suit in the Tokyo District Court on October 15. Their ages were between 40 and 53. They seek for the court to recognize their rights in their jobs, and to their jobs, and monetary compensation for the fact that IBM has shut them out of their jobs. (Basically, the damages you get when you are sei sha-in in Japan.)
It appears to be understood in the Japanese media, that Martin Jetter is a “cost cutter”, sent by IBM in New York, to Tokyo, to reduce costs. In the service industry, what reduce costs mostly means is fire people.
From news accounts, it sounds like IBM Japan has not done all the other things it must do, under Japanese law, beforehand, before it eliminates jobs. And there is a list.
Aside from the obvious money motive, I wonder why the company has chosen the avenue it has to make these moves.
[Update: Here is the refresher, on Japanese labor law, from a post earlier this year.]
[Update #2: This week, the dismissals elicited a protest (JP) from a labor union operating in IBM Japan, that is affiliated with Zenroren, a left-leaning confederation of workers’ rights groups.]
[Update #3 12/3/12: In a speech in the Japanese Diet, Shii Kazuo, says this about lockout dismissals:
IBM Japan gives sudden dismissal notices to targeted workers without valid reasons and kicks them out of the company premises, dubbed “lockout dismissals”.
Shii condemns such a nefarious way of firing as an abuse of the employer’s right of dismissal, demanding that the government issue a warning to the company to stop conducting forcible dismissals and fulfill its corporate social responsibility.