Photo/IllutrationThe employee, 36, is now back working in sales promotion after being assigned to shredding documents as punishment for his union activities. (Wataru Netsu)

A sales employee of a goods moving company was assigned to shredding documents all day long for joining an outside labor union to press for a change in a practice known in-house as "the trap of the ant lion."

The 36-year-old man had taken issue with Tokyo-based Hikkoshisha Kanto's policy of docking the salaries of employees if the goods of customers were damaged in transit.

It was known as the trap of the ant lion after the fiercely predatory insect that digs pits to lure passing ants and other prey. It is also a pun on the company's logo of two ants hauling goods.

The Tokyo metropolitan government’s Labor Relations Commission ruled Aug. 23 that the company's treatment of the man constituted “unfair labor practice” and ordered it to change its working conditions.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed his happiness with the commission’s ruling at a news conference the same day.

“I am rewarded for my efforts (to correct the work environment through union activities),” he said. “What I am hoping for most is that my employer will now respond to the commission’s order with sincerity and improve the work environment.”

The man was subject to disciplinary dismissal in August 2015 due to his labor union activities. However, he was allowed to return to work after reaching a reconciliation with the company last May through a lawsuit and other negotiations.

The man joined the labor union in March 2015.

Hikkoshisha Kanto forced employees to reimburse the costs for any damage to customers’ goods during a move by deducting the amount from their paychecks.

The man, who was working in sales at that time, sought to end the practice.

He was removed from sales four months after he requested the company to start collective bargaining with his union.

His new duty involved shredding paper for the entire shift in a room installed with a surveillance camera. His salary was slashed by 40 percent.

When he was fired, Hikkoshisha Kanto and other group companies posted a notice in their office buildings of his alleged "crime" and dismissal, along with his photo.

The company retracted the dismissal after the man filed a temporary injunction with the Tokyo District Court to reinstate him.

The Labor Relations Commission’s ruling came after the labor union complained about the company's behavior and unfair labor practice.

The commission ordered Hikkoshisha Kanto to post an in-house notice that its responses in the past were ruled unfair labor practice and that the company will not allow a recurrence.

It also ordered the company to post the notice in its in-house magazine and ensure that all employees get a copy.

Hikkoshisha Kanto declined to comment on the commission’s ruling, saying it had not read the details yet.

The man was once ranked No. 1 in monthly sales among all company branches prior to his falling out with the management. He is now back in sales.

He said that some of his colleagues privately congratulated him for “taking on the company.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Makoto Tsuchiya and Wataru Netsu.)