Former bus drivers on Okinawa bases claim unfair hiring
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Five part-time employees who lost their jobs driving bus routes on the island’s Marine Corps bases have lodged complaints of unfair hiring practices.
The formal complaint was filed with Camp Foster’s Civilian Human Resource Office, which oversees the hiring of local residents applying for base jobs. The bus drivers accuse personnel at Foster’s Base Motors Transportation Office of nepotism.
One of the five — Amado Madrigal — said he met with the base inspector last week and told of at least 15 people at Base Motors who are closely related to personnel currently or formerly in supervisory positions. He has also accused base officials of discriminating against him because he is Filipino.
Maj. Jeff Blau, a Marine Corps spokesman on Okinawa, said Friday that the base inspector had no investigations under way concerning hiring practices at Base Motors.
Kazato Adachi, the CHRO’s Japanese national labor branch chief, said the hiring process was fair, but he acknowledged that various base agencies were looking into the case and reviewing the selection process.
Adachi said equal employment opportunity regulations apply to U.S. government employees on the base but not to Japanese civilian employees. He also said, “It’s part of common sense … that we should not use private connections to hire relatives, a son, a sister or cousin.”
Adachi said the CHRO is aware of concerns that some supervisors hire friends and relatives, but those rumors are hard to prove, he added.
The five who filed complaints are among 15 bus drivers who worked for an off-base temporary service that had a contract with Marine Corps Community Services to provide the service on weekends. The contract ended Jan. 12.
Foster’s Base Motors office previously supplied personnel to drive the bus routes Monday through Friday. Under a new agreement, Base Motors now will provide the service seven days a week.
To staff the seven-day service, Base Motors notified CHRO that they had openings for 26 new drivers. CHRO in turn asked for referrals from the Naha Labor Management Office, which maintains more than 10,000 applications of those seeking employment on military bases in Okinawa.
In early December, Madrigal said he and the other part-time drivers were among 94 people the Naha LMO referred to CHRO.
The agency hired only three of the former drivers.
Madrigal said his Marine Corps Community Services supervisors told the part-time drivers they were highly recommended because they already had base passes, knew the routes and had bus driver’s licenses. Madrigal, who’d been the head dispatcher supervising 26 Japanese drivers under him, said he also was told his supervisory skills and command of English and Japanese would be added advantages.
Knowledge of English was one of the job requirements, said Adachi, who acknowledged that applicants were told they would be given priority if they knew English, had experience driving buses and had base passes and bus licenses.
“It did not mean that we would hire them if they possessed those things, only that we would take those things into consideration,” he said.
Adachi said applicants selected for the job were the best qualified.
But Hitoshi Ikehara, another displaced driver who speaks English well and also drives buses for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools, said, “We are the ones more qualified for the jobs.”
During the driving portion of the test, Base Motors officials had applicants drive a mini-bus, not the 62-passenger bus they would drive for the job, said Ikehara. He contended that inexperienced drivers would have been less likely to pass had they been required to take the test using the larger bus.
“We don’t understand why they didn’t hire us when we already have experience on the big buses,” said Ikehara.
A Base Motors employee who asked not to be identified said it baffled him that the other drivers were not hired when they already knew the routes and had the needed experience.
Adachi, speaking for Base Motors, said everything about the selection process, including the driving test, was fair.
“We have no obligation to explain to applicants who are not hired why they were not hired,” he said.