JILAF invited eight persons from six organizations in five East European countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania) to visit Japan from November 24 to December 7, 2013.
During the discussions and other program activities, the participants, who were obviously very involved in the labour movement in their own organizations and countries, positively asked questions and, while making comparisons with the situation in their own countries, strongly conveyed their eagerness to transplant Japan’s constructive industrial relations, productivity movement, and welfare projects for workers to their own countries. They also displayed a keenness to learn about Japan from many angles, including culture and customs, and made efficient use of time before and after program activities for this purpose.
In the labour-related lectures, they showed a lot of interest in the process of the spring labour offensive, asking detailed questions about the annual schedule, the roles of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) and industrial federations, the situation in small and medium-sized enterprises, and so on and learning about the advantages of Japan’s annual spring struggle.
They also asked questions about whether the union-shop system violates the freedom not to join a trade union and the freedom to choose unions and its conformity with Convention No. 98 of the International Labour Organization (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining). Furthermore, they showed a high degree of interest in the declining unionization rate and increase in the number of nonregular workers, suggesting that “Japanese trade unions should be more active in organizing nonregular workers.”
In the industrial federation lecture, the participants heard from Joho Roren (Federation of Information and Communication Technology Service Workers of Japan) about the activities and issues of an industrial federation. They highly evaluated Joho Roren’s international activities and volunteer activities but at the same time were curious about why, for instance, industrial federations do not take part in collective bargaining. After hearing a detailed explanation of Japan’s company-based trade union system, they reconfirmed their understanding of the respective roles of individual unions, industrial federations, and RENGO.
Regarding the productivity movement, the participants appreciated the fact that unions must make as much effort as possible to improve productivity but repeatedly asked how unions in struggling companies could get an appropriate distribution. Eventually they became aware once again of the importance of labour-management consultations.
In the regional RENGO program, they visited RENGO Miyazaki to learn about the activities of a regional branch. They also visited a Hello Work employment office and a plant of Honda Lock Mfg. Co., Ltd., where discussions covered labour-management efforts to improve the workplace environment and other topics. The participants also actively discussed the organization of nonregular employees, comparing conditions in Japan and Eastern Europe and introducing the good points of their region.