All in the name of flexibility.

Train station staff in Japan are a dedicated bunch, committing themselves to provide the highest level of safety and professionalism to commuters that some other countries can only dream of.

But a public announcement on 4 April by Japan Railways East (JR East), the company running one of the country’s largest public railway networks, has shaken staff members with a new change. Specifically, the job titles of “train conductor” or “train drivers” will be abolished, to be replaced with general roles of “crew” and “crew leaders”.

▼ This adjustment will come into effect sometime in April 2020.

Along with this also comes the removal of in-house tests currently mandatory for all conductors. More than simply a name change, JR East has confirmed that the shift from specific roles to an all-encompassing “crew” is a way for management to quickly deploy manpower to wherever it is needed most, particularly during the hectic months leading up to the Tokyo Olympics in August 2020.

Although the role of crew leader has not been clarified, we assume it may be experienced personnel in charge of deploying and training staff.

So even though someone might be a crew member, he or she could be working as a train operator one day, and suddenly gate attendant or platform attendant the next, maybe even all on the same day.

▼ Being a JR East employee just got a lot more challenging.

This is the first time JR East has considered a revamp of the current system, sparked by a worrying shortage of hands. While the new arrangement hopes to cultivate flexibility in personnel, the company faced backlash from employees when it was first revealed to them in late March.

And understandably so, as the announcement presented more questions than it has answered. Will crew members be forced to receive training in roles they are not interested in? Will they be expected to take on multiple roles a day? How does pay work out then?

Details have not been revealed other than the change, but Japanese netizens were nevertheless concerned:

“I’m more worried about them doing away with the in-house tests. There’ll be more accidents if there’s no proper certification.”
“Seems like there will be less people interested in working with them since they won’t know what they will end up doing.”
“I don’t really care about the tests, but some children dream of being a conductor. I wish they’d keep it the same.”

This adjustment looks to be temporary for now to presumably deal with the Tokyo Olympics, but it could very well become a permanent system after that. Perhaps JR East has other plans to fill the shortage that we are not aware of, such as having a squad of robots on hand, but we can only hope they will provide a clearer picture for employees in the coming months.

Source: Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

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