A train driver in Japan is suing his employer after taking 43 yen (28 pence) off his wages for a one-minute delay that he claims was not his fault.
The West Japan Railway Company (JR West) said it withheld the tiny amount by applying its strict “no work, no wage” principle to the incident that occurred last June.
The driver, who was not named by the Japanese media, is demanding 43 yen plus 13 yen overtime and 2.2 million yen in compensation for the mental agony caused by his employer’s decision, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.
The case is reminiscent of the enviable punctuality record of the Japanese rail network, where even very short delays result in repeated apologies to passengers.
The dispute arose when the driver who was supposed to be delivering an empty train to a depot at Okayama Station in western Japan discovered that he was waiting on the wrong platform.
His mistake delayed the driver change at the correct platform by a minute and delayed the arrival of the train at the depot by another minute, the newspaper said.
JR West said it was entitled to cut the driver’s wages as he was not working during the mix-up.
However, the plaintiff told Okayama District Court that the delay was due to “human error” and that he should not have been considered absent, adding that there had been no interruption to train schedules.
The company initially withheld 85 yen for the two-minute delay, but reduced the fine to a one-minute delay after the driver complained to the local employment office.
However, the driver refused to accept the lower fine and filed his lawsuit for damages in court in March.
A JR West spokesman told Agence France-Presse the dispute arose out of disagreements over how to interpret the cause of the delay, adding that the company had applied its non-work and pay rule when docking the driver’s wages.
The online response seemed to be on the driver’s side out of pocket. “So you can cut someone’s salary by a minute, but you can’t pay overtime by the minute?” Said one commentator, according to the Sora News 24 Website.
Another wrote, “I would go insane if I were responsible for payroll and deduct minutes from wages for every mistake they make.”
Japan’s vast rail network rarely experiences any significant delays, with the exception of disruption from earthquakes and typhoons. Commuters and students using trains five or more minutes late are offered certificates to bosses and teachers to prove that they were not to blame for the delay.
In 2017, the operator of a private rail company serving the suburbs of Tokyo apologized for the “serious inconvenience” it caused after one of its trains left 20 seconds ahead of schedule.