Discussions with members of the JILAF International Activists Training Course
JILAF invited the Asia Youth Team to visit Japan from June 5 to 18. This time the team consisted of eight persons (including five women) from six organizations in four countries (India, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Vietnam).
The purpose of the Asia Youth Team is to invite young trade union activists who show promise as future labour movement leaders in their respective countries to promote their understanding of such topics as Japanese industrial relations, labour-management practices, productivity improvement, and efforts to ensure employment stability, as well as to provide necessary information for, among other things, the building of constructive industrial relations and democratic trade union management.
Although their trade union careers were different, the participants this time respected and helped one another. Even during break periods, they made efforts to deepen their understanding of the content of lectures and the labour situation in participating countries. There was also one participant who, obtaining hints from the lectures, had plans to produce a pamphlet for organizer education and distribute it to not only trade unions but also universities and other educational institutions. It was clear that the participants had a sincere attitude and the training had had a real effect.
In the labour-related lectures, the participants learned about such topics as the transformation of Japanese trade unions since the end of World War II, the annual spring labour struggle and other aspects of the Japanese labour movement, and labour legislation in Japan. In their visit to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, they were given lectures on employment, work patterns, and the role of labour administration. They showed much interest in efforts to address Japan’s aging and low-birthrate society and also learned about efforts to promote the activities of women. In their visit to RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they received a lecture on nonregular workers. In particular, they showed much interest in the specific activities of RENGO, such as labour counseling and social appeals and network building toward the solution of issues. The participants asked lively questions about such matters as the effects of implemented measures and the response of young people and engaged in discussions with a view to deployment in their own countries.
In the visit to an industrial federation, they went to Zen Insatsu (All Printing Bureau Labour Union), where they received an explanation of its organization and activities. In particular, they showed much interest in the reason for the 100% organization rate, the form of labour agreements concluded by both the central headquarters and regional branches, and efforts to encourage the activities of youth and women. Regarding efforts to encourage youth and women’s activities, one team member commented that the explanation had been very stimulating and had provided hints.
The participants also visited the Tokyo Plant of the National Printing Bureau, where they were able to observe the plant and engage in discussions. One team member commented that it had been a valuable experience to see such an unfamiliar process, and another asked about the union’s specific efforts to improve the workplace environment.
In addition, as an attempt to further enhance the training effect, the participants held discussions about youth employment and other issues with four people who had taken JILAF’s International Activists Training Course last year. The sharing of information on the problem of youth employment and specific measures in each country revealed that, like Japan, these countries are also facing the problem of nonregular workers. Furthermore, the participants offered concrete suggestions, such as “It is important to further promote English education so as to avoid a job mismatch among the young generation.”
In the RENGO Kagawa program, the participants visited the Kagawa Prefecture Branch of UA Zensen (Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service, and General Workers’ Unions), where they heard about the history of UA Zensen’s expansion and an explanation of its organization structure. At RENGO Kagawa, they also received an explanation of regional economic development and its organization and other activities. In a visit to the Hello Work Takamatsu public employment office, they learned about the practical support system for unemployed persons and other topics. On the following day they visited the Power Distribution Systems Center of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, where they inspected the manufacturing plant and received an explanation of measures to improve the workplace environment. They also visited the Japan Productivity Center, Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), National Association of Labour Banks, and other places, where they heard explanations and engaged in discussions.
In the action plan proposals presented on the final day of the program, the participants made such comments as (1) “I want to introduce what I have learned about Japan’s labour legislation and labour-management consultation system to our youth committee and spread understanding in trade union activities”; (2) “I want to organize a seminar back home to share what I have learned in Japan about Japan’s labour-management practices, constructive industrial relations, and so on and make efforts toward the organization of nonregular workers”; (3) “I want to produce teaching materials for organizer education and issue them as a pamphlet so as to promote unionization”; and (4) “I want to promote introduction of the labour-management consultation system so as to encourage positive discussions with the employer.”