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JR West to place 16,900 workers on temporary leave due to fall in passengers

A JR West logo is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

OSAKA -- West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced on May 8 that some 16,900 employees will take single days of temporary leave starting May 16 due to a reduction in passengers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 1,400, or some 8%, of that total will be off from work each day, on a rotating basis. The daily staff reduction will not hinder operations, according to the company.

JR West plans to make some staff from about 300 drivers and conductors, about 650 station attendants and about 450 office workers take leave every day. Employees in charge of maintenance and inspections of trains and rail tracks will be excluded from the program.

The move will mark the first time for the railway operator to carry out large-scale temporary staff cuts since the company was established following the privatization of Japan National Railways in 1987. JR West says the program will lead to labor cost savings. The company plans to tap labor subsidies from the national government and pay full wages to those taking time off.

The number of passengers on the Sanyo and Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train lines as well as limited express services on local lines during the "Golden Week" holiday period from April 24 to May 6 plunged to only 3 to 5% of that in the same period the previous year.

JR West will reduce train services by about 30% on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line from May 11, and by about 20% on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line and 40% on limited express and local lines from May 16. The cuts will continue until further notice.

(Japanese original by Masaki Takahashi, Osaka City News Department)

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