At the invitation of JILAF, a joint team of junior trade union leaders of Thailand and Indonesia visited Japan from June 23 to July 6.
The team was composed of nine members in total, out of whom four members (including one woman) were one by one from each of four organizations which are affiliated to the Thai Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-TC), and the other five members (including two women) were from three national trade centers in Indonesia.
The countries which constitute the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been developing rapidly in recent years. Thailand and Indonesia have been especially achieving a spectacular growth. Their social and economic conditions are relatively similar to each other and many Japanese companies have advanced to these two countries. The issues facing these two countries and the measures to be taken to tackle them overlap in many respects. While sharing a common awareness mutually, the Thai and Indonesian participants were very keen to find ways to solve the problems which they face.
Throughout the program as a whole, the interest of the participants focused on the roles which Japanese trade unions play at the enterprise, industrial, and national levels. They were highly impressed by the way how the trade unions in Japan are interrelated and function at each level. In order to expand the organization, and to strengthen the solidarity of workers and to enhance the social presence of trade unions, it is necessary for each level of trade unions to fulfill their roles and complement the other levels mutually. The participants learned from the Japanese trade union system that it is only through fulfilling their own roles and cooperating with each other that trade unions can display their strength to the full.
In a lecture on the industrial federation, the participants heard an explanation from JEC Rengo (Japan Federation of Energy and Chemistry Workers’ Unions) about its organizational structure and activities. JEC Rengo emphasized how extremely important it is for industrial federations to lobby various organizations and the people concerned, including employers, the government, political parties, and members of the Diet and local government assemblies, in promoting their policies to realize the goals of workers.
When the team visited Hokkaido, northernmost prefecture in Japan, the participants heard an explanation of how RENGO Hokkaido Local is organized, what activities they are doing and how the current labour situation in Hokkaido is. The participants could deepen their understanding of RENGO locals, while comparing with the state of regional or local structures in their own countries. In Hokkaido, they also visited the “Hello Work” Sapporo, a public employment security office in Sapporo City , where they observed the job placement service system and learned enthusiastically about the employment insurance scheme as well. In addition, the participants visited Nichiryo Baking Co., Ltd., where they exchanged views with the trade union leaders in the company about such topics as trade union activities and labour agreements in the plant, after seeing around the manufacturing site.
In the second half of the program, the participants attended lectures from the Japan Productivity Center, Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), and the National Association of Labour Banks. The participants could further deepen their understanding of the Japanese labor situation by learning the idea which exists behind the productivity promotion movement, labour-management relations seen from the management side, and how the mutual-aid schemes of workers are organized.
At the very end on the final day of the program, the participants were requested to express whether they could find any benefits by participating in the program and how they can advance their own action plans based on the benefits after they return back to their countries. Most of them indicated such action plans as “strengthening the respective functions of enterprise-based unions, industrial federations, and the national centers and building a role-sharing setup,” “an early introduction of pension scheme and employment insurance scheme,” “demand to the government to strengthen labour standards inspection against violations of laws” and “ establishment of an organization like labour bank.”