JILAF invited 12 people from Laos and Vietnam to visit Japan from August 30 to September 12, 2015. Because there are so many differences between these two countries and Japan in terms of political setup (they are socialist countries) and the structure of trade unions, and because the participants from these two countries had similar interests, overall they participated actively in the two-week program.
At the lectures and places visited, the participants positively stated their opinions and asked questions, and they earnestly learned about industrial relations, the labour situation, and other issues in Japan. In particular, they asked many questions about such issues as the present state of nonregular workers in Japan and related problems and countermeasures, efforts to enforce compliance with laws and ordinances, and the realization of a gender-equal society.
At RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they listened to a lecture about organization policy and other matters and reaffirmed the importance of worker solidarity. Since the number of informal-sector workers is increasing in both countries, the participants showed much interest in specific means of organizing such workers.
In the industrial federation visit, they visited Unyu Roren (Council of All Japan Transport Workers’ Unions), where they heard about its organizational structure and campaign policies and learned about issues that are peculiar to workers in the transportation industry, such as the exclusion of overtime work from application of laws and ordinances. Regarding overtime work, they received an explanation citing specific examples and thereby deepened their understanding of the mechanism of overtime work in Japan. In addition, after learning that the number of industrial disputes has been declining since the 1970s, the participants asked about measures to prevent disputes.
In discussions with RENGO Yamanashi, the participants received an explanation of efforts to organize workers and asked questions about the unionization rate in Yamanashi Prefecture; differences between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan regions, such as wage levels; and whether activities to realize gender equality are filtering down to regional branches of RENGO.
In the workplace visit, the participants visited the head office plant of Kito Corporation, which manufactures chain hoists, cranes, and other products. They observed manufacturing processes that give consideration to the health management and safety of workers, and in discussions attended by representatives of both labour and management, they heard that the plant implements many measures to train and protect workers, such as safety education, on the basis of constructive industrial relations.
The participants also visited the Hello Work Kofu public employment office, where they learned specifically about its structure and the mechanism of unemployment insurance, and the Yamanashi Prefecture Headquarters of Chuo Labour Bank, where they deepened their understanding of the mission and role of a financial institution for workers.
On the final day the participants made many comments along the lines of “I hope to continue exchange among Laos, Vietnam, and Japan and contribute to social and economic development by strengthening the labour movement.”