No Fight, No Safety!
27 April 2005

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(Union News "Daily DORO CHIBA" No.6068,)(Japanes)

No Fight, No Safety!


What we had feared and had kept warning was realized as the worst accident in the history of JR (Japan Railway Companies).

Enough information has not been revealed yet and it is difficult to conclude what was the real cause of the accident. Still, we can tell even with the limited facts that it is the JR West Company's management policy - Put Profit and Efficiency First before Safety - which has caused the accident.

The fatal accident was not accidental. It is not just a problem of JR West Co. either. It is an inevitable result of railway privatization. In December 2003, the JR East Co. received the Improving Business Operation Order from the Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport which feared "outbreak of grave accidents". The JR Hokkaido was also given punitive instruction by the Hokkaido Transport Office on 16 February 2005 after they have had a series of accidents.

The Railway's Division and Privatization has been finished only after the dismissals of 200,000 workers and harsh trade union bashing, and now it has reached at another point: Destruction of the safety.


JR West Co. caused such a grave accident but reacted quite dishonestly. They talked about "excess speed" and "punishment record of the driver" and tried to shift all the blame to the individual worker. They also talked about "crushed stone" on the track as if accident was an act of God or somebody else.

We cannot let them do that. We have to make them take their own responsibility. What did they say at the time of fatal Higashi-Nakano accident? What about Otsuki accident? Every time grave accidents have happened, only the thing JR Companies have done was talking about "negligence of drivers" and blaming individual workers. This attitude was the fundamental cause of safety collapse.


Some people are focusing on excess speed. But it cannot cause the derailment on its own. The story of the stone on the track is just rubbish. The real cause should be much fundamental.

We know that JR West Co. was conducting two-week investigation on the time delay before the accident. They checked how many seconds - yes seconds, not a minute - each train fails to run on time. It means a huge pressure on drivers. It is simply unacceptable. But the situation is the same in JR East as well. They hunt trivial "errors" and punish workers. Drivers have to be demoted after a couple of "errors".

And just before the deadly accident, the driver did overrun at a station under the investigation and the pressure. And he had just 11-month driving experience. Could he stay calm in such a situation? It is easy to imagine. What instruction did the director give him? The Company has revealed just a part of the information and not yet revealed wireless communication record.

The JR West Co. had introduced performance related pay, and has proposed to change it for the worse. If they succeed it, workers cannot get any pay rise unless they pass promotion examination. If passing examination and promotion is the only way to get better pay, the unity of rank and file workers will suffer tremendous damage.

In the period of JNR, state-run railway, not just workers but management used to think that "the safety is the number one priority at the transport work". But the first priority for the JR Company now is to destroy the unity of the workers and trade unions. The Safty First idea has been expelled by the privatized JR Company for long time ago.


It is also clear that tightened train timetable and excessive speed-up had been introduced.

Both the JR West and the Hankyu Rail, another private company, have lines between Takaradsuka and Osaka. Both of the stations are just 25 km away but the trains at JR West have to run "7 minutes" faster than Hankyu line. It is for winning the competence and to have more passengers. Fukuchiyama line which had the lethal accident this time was originally just a local line. But tightened timetable and speed-up was introduced after the privatization in 1987. What do you think of reality that drivers must run 120 km/h at the straight line but have to slow down till 70 km/h at the following curve where the accident happened? It tells us how unreasonable speed-up has been enforced.

Security facility has been also left alone. JR East talks about "stern market principal which means the superior wins and the inferior loses" in its Middle-Range Management Scheme and has, in reality, ignored the safety. Only the "safety" measure for them is to squeeze rank and file workers. This is completely distorted and wrong. This is in the background of the accident this time.


It is also sure that the reducing the weight of the coaches which was good for cost performance and speed-up, was bad to the strength of carriages and has results harsher accident.

A member of our trade union lost his life, many years ago, when a concrete mixer car plunged into railroad crossing and collided with the train. Since then, we have kept asking the Company about the strength of the lightweight coaches. They have, however, shown no concrete data, even though it is a matter of human lives, and just repeated to say "It has enough strength" with no evidence.

This is the true color of the present privatized Japan Railway Company.


How was the rail track condition? How was the coach condition? The JR West Co. has not revealed one of the most important information. The histories of maintenance of the rail tracks and coaches have been stored in computers and can be checked and released immediately.

In JR East Co., we have had broken rail tracks and shifted rail sleepers as a direct consequence of privatization and outsourcing of the maintenance work. Drivers have to speed up rapidly and slow down immediately in order to reduce the time, and it gives unnecessary damage to the wheels. Coach maintenance workers have to plane and grind the wheels every day. But in reality, frequency of the coach and track maintenance becomes decreasing, safety measures become loosen under the deregulation.


Capitals are to pursue the profit and victimize the safety. In order to avert cruel accident in the future, we have to go back to our origin: No Fight, No Safety! We should never ever let them repeat this again. We have to stand up to protect the lives of passengers and working people in the JR Companies. This is our responsibility as proud workers in the rail.

The accident warns us what we should do. Or rather, as thinking of the victims, we realize that it is too late, and it is more than a mere warning. But if we do not speak out, similar accident will happen again and again.

We stood up for Driving Safety struggle including strike at the Spring Labour Offensive 2005. But the fight has just begun. We need to organize big enough industrial dispute to enforce the JR Companies to change their management policy, competition principal, deregulation and deterioration of the safety. We shall restart our fight to install Driving Safety at our workplace.

DORO-CHIBA (DC): National Railway Motive Power Union of CHIBA