In front of the RENGO Headquarters
A total of 12 people (including 6 women) participated in the team from Laos and Vietnam that visited Japan from September 4 to 17. All of the programs were completed according to schedule. Since these two countries have socialist regimes, there were many points on which they differ from Japan, such as Japan’s democratic politics and the origins of trade unions. For this reason, the participants shared common matters of interest. In the case of Vietnam, the fruits of economic development brought about by globalization are not being reflected in the livelihood of workers. In the case of Laos, multinational companies are becoming increasingly interested in that country because of, among other things, its position as this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the launching of the ASEAN Economic Community and Asian Highway projects. Against this background, as future trade union leaders, the participants took part enthusiastically in the programs, learning about the postwar development of Japan’s society, economy, and labour movement and looking for hints toward employment stability, the improvement of working conditions, and the building of constructive industrial relations in their own countries.
In the first half of the program the participants received lectures on the arousal of their problem awareness as trade union leaders, the role and issues of Japan’s trade union movement, and social and labour legislation in Japan.
In the visit to RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), the participants heard a lecture from the Department of Organizing on RENGO’s efforts to organize workers. In both Laos and Vietnam the salaries of full-time union officials are paid by the government or companies, so the participants showed much interest in and asked many questions about such matters as the financial sources for the salaries of full-time union officials in Japan, the flow of trade union dues in Japan, and the roles of and relations between the RENGO Headquarters and regional branches of RENGO.
As a workplace visit, the participants went to the workers’ union of All Nippon Airways (ANA), which is affiliated with Koku Rengo (Japan Federation of Aviation Industry Unions), and inspected the aircraft maintenance plant, where they received an explanation of efforts by labour and management to improve the workplace environment. They deepened their understanding of the efforts of labour and management to improve productivity and of the role and activities of a company-based union.
In the Exchange of Views on Labour Situation meeting, the participants reported on the labour situation and issues in their respective countries. The reports focused on how trade unions would embrace and support informal-sector workers, the number of whom is increasing in both Laos and Vietnam, and the urgent issue of improving the conditions of workers in line with economic development.
In Okayama Prefecture the participants visited the Okayama Branch of the Chugoku Labour Bank, where they received an explanation of the origins, philosophy, and activities of the labour bank business and inspected the branch, thus deepening their understanding of the mission and role of such mutual-aid organizations for workers.
In the regional RENGO branch program, the participants visited Hello Work Plaza Okayama, where they learned about the government’s function of creating employment and efforts to implement vocational training. Afterward they inspected the facility, expressing amazement at the large number of visitors and high reemployment rate and commenting that they would like to consider introducing such facilities in their own countries. They also visited the Okayama Prefectural Government Office, where they heard about the efforts of the regional government to develop and vitalize the prefecture.
In discussions with senior officials of RENGO Okayama, the participants heard an explanation of the organization’s structure, issues currently being faced, and efforts to expand organization and exchanged opinions on specific activities to promote organization. As a plant visit, they went to the Mizushima Plant of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., where they inspected the welding assembly line and other facilities. The participants were all very impressed by the robot automation line, unmanned conveyance trolleys, and the fact that the completion of one vehicle involves as many as 144 processes. They asked questions about such matters as in-house human resource development and the union’s involvement, as well as the union’s response when robots are introduced. As the introduction of robots eases the burden on workers at a time when their work load is increasing and helps to raise efficiency and productivity, the participants recognized the importance of consultations between labour and management to promote robots systematically with human resource development, training, and technology transfer.
At the Japan Productivity Center the participants received a lecture on the three guiding principles of productivity, Japanese-style industrial relations, and future issues. They were made aware once again of the contribution of Japanese trade unions to productivity improvement, the fact that the three guiding principles are meaningless unless they are obeyed by all three parties (government, labour, and management, and especially employers), and the effectiveness of the labour-management consultation system.
In the lecture from Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the participants received an explanation of industrial relations as seen by a business organization, recognized the importance of discussions and collaboration between trade unions and organizations of employers, and commented enthusiastically that they wanted to promote such efforts in their own countries.
In the visit to Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association of Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance), the participants received a lecture on mutual-aid businesses as nonprofit organizations and discussed such issues as measures to counter business risks caused by the low birthrate and aging in Japan and the relationship with company-based unions and industrial labour federations.
When all the programs had been completed, the participants proposed the following action plans:
(1) “I want to establish a special department and begin operations first of all in four industrial estates in order to deepen understanding among many trade union members of collective bargaining and the labour-management consultation system.” (Vietnam)
(2) “I definitely want to introduce the three guiding principles of productivity. By obeying the three principles of the productivity movement, we can build balanced industrial relations. First of all we can introduce the principles five companies in the province and then, in line with conditions in the country, hopefully develop the movement nationwide.” (Vietnam)
(3) “With reference to the employment creation measures by the Japanese government that we learned about at Hello Work, I want to propose improvement of the employment creation business in five provinces first of all. If it is effective, we can expand nationwide. The employment creation department in my country, which is similar to the Hello Work business, is not functioning properly as it is in Japan, so workers have to depend on fee-paying agencies.” (Vietnam)
(4) “Since Japan has excellent mutual-aid systems, like labour banks and insurance cooperatives, I want to consider and propose the introduction of such a system suited to conditions in my country.” (Laos)
(5) “With reference to RENGO’s organization expansion activities, I want to develop telephone consultations and publicity campaigns in my country so as to improve the quality of trade union leaders and trade union activities toward organization expansion.” (Vietnam)