Group photo of the Chinese and Indonesian visitors
The Japan International Labour Foundation (JILAF) invited 11 labour union members from China and Indonesia, including four women, to participate in various study sessions in Japan during a 14-day stay from May 14 to 27, 2017. As both countries are facing a number of challenges in the labour-management relationship, all the participants were enthusiastic about learning about actual labour-management relationships and productivity improvement initiatives undertaken in Japan. During various sessions, they raised a lot of issues and questions about how to conduct labour-management consultations and collective bargaining as well as how to collect necessary information.
There were lecture sessions in which they learned the postwar history of labour unions in Japan, the spring labour struggle (shunto) and other labour initiatives, the minimum wage system, labour-related legislation, and how to democratically manage a labour union. The group visited the Federation of Electric Power–Related Industry Workers Unions of Japan (Denryoku Soren), in which views were actively exchanged to seek solutions for various labour problems. The participants recognized the problems they have in the labour movement were becoming closer to those found in Japan—social contradictions emerging amid a rapidly aging society as well as a delay in labour union organization.
In discussion sessions, a presentation was made concerning labour conditions and challenges to be addressed in both countries. To summarize the points raised, China presented (i) although the labour law structure has been better organized, the social security system is not universally applied throughout the country, and some people are left out of coverage, so system operation should be improved. Nursing care insurance is still in its trial stage; (ii) there are serious problems concerning nonregular employees; (iii) the development of the digital economy has brought about totally new types of employment, which should be addressed carefully; (iv) there are also problems with employers exercising pressure on employees, production being carried out at an excessive level, and income disparity requiring swift solutions. In Indonesia, (i) minimum wages, once improved in 2016, still remain insufficient, so it is necessary to raise the level further; and (ii) labour has lost most of the actual labour-management disputes, mainly because of insufficient paperwork prepared by labour.
On the first day of visiting the local offices of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they visited RENGO Hokkaido, in which a briefing was provided concerning the organization’s outline, present challenges actually facing RENGO, and initiatives being undertaken for the organization’s expansion. They also exchanged views concerning details of consultations RENGO undertakes, specific response measures taken to foreign labourers in Japan, and other matters.
They visited Hello Work Sapporo, a public employment security office, where information was shared concerning job creation efforts and professional skill development, both undertaken by the local government. Participants say they were surprised at the great number of visitors to the office and high reemployment ratio, and also that they wish to endeavour to develop new employment security initiatives in their home countries.
They also visited the Muroran Works of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, where they observed the facilities after listening to stories about steel in our livelihood, steelwork’s functions, and the history of steelmaking in Japan. Members were impressed at the high technological capabilities and appreciated the firsthand information concerning Japan’s energy-saving efforts.
During the discussion with JILAF officials, the labour union members presented various questions and thoughts, while JILAF officials provided them with advice and asked questions as well as offered proposals. The participants presented the details of new action to be taken, as follows:
・ Establish the nursing care insurance system within the social security framework and start the experiment of the insurance for elderly care.
・ Invite nonregular employees to join labour unions.
・ Advance capacity development of labour union officials and members, and develop a cooperative and constructive labour movement.
・ Expand and enhance labour unions, aiming specifically at doubling the present number of members.
・ Propose establishing new government orders or bylaws based on their learning experience in the geographical areas where legislation is not yet sufficient.