IBM Japan making headlines as test case (poison taster) for currently unlawful dismissals under Japanese Labor Law.

This from the Japan Today.

When 27-year IBM veteran Martin Jetter came to Tokyo last year, the new president of the technology giant’s Japanese arm had a radical idea: hold workers accountable for performance.

Within months of Jetter’s arrival, IBM Japan fired a group of workers deemed to be underperforming in the kind of restructuring common in many Western countries but rare in Japan, where the most sought-after jobs have carried a promise of lifetime employment.

International Business Machines is now being sued for wrongful termination in what is shaping up as a legal test case in one of the most divisive and politically charged issues facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – whether to make it easier for companies operating in Japan to fire workers.

Who is being sued is IBM Japan, technically, but it’s pretty clear from the article that Jetter was sent to Japan to restructure IBM Japan, and that the company is leaning hard against what is well understood as settled labor law, that you can’t just start calling people incompetents and letting them go on an afternoon’s notice.

Certain individuals in Japan are calling for labor market changes, under the banner of “reform”, but if, or whenever, the Japanese Diet would make those changes, it doesn’t change the fact that companies can’t just skirt the laws they find inconvenient. That is really quite an import of foreign thinking!

[Update: poison taster is a phrase coming from a former IBM president, Takuma Otoshi.]