JILAF invited 10 persons from 8 organizations in 7 English-speaking African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) to visit Japan from December 8 to 21, 2013.
Many of the participants in this team were engaged in daily labour movement activities amid confrontational industrial relations, so they showed an extremely high level of interest in the good labour-management relations existing in Japan. They also had much praise for Japanese society in general, including the social security system and high level of economic development.
At the same time, however, they were curious as to why, in a country like Japan where good industrial relations are being maintained and the rights of workers are firmly protected by law, the union organization ratio is falling, the labour movement appears stagnant, and many women quit their jobs at the time of childbirth. In reply to such questions, the Japanese speakers explained how these issues are being tackled, thereby deepening the participants’ understanding.
In the industrial federation lecture given by Jichiro (All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Union), the participants were able to hear an explanation of Jichiro’s organization strategy and its own mutual-aid schemes. In the RENGO Saga program, they were able to discuss with officials about such topics as measures to organize women. They also visited Hello Work Saga, where they learned about Japan’s job introduction system, whereby jobseekers can gain access to nationwide job vacancy information. In addition, as a representative workplace in Saga Prefecture, the participants visited Namura Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., where they observed the production site and were able to gain an understanding of the organization and activities of the plant’s labour union.
Against the background of Africa’s abundant natural and human resources, it is likely that multinational enterprises, including Japanese companies, will increase their presence on the continent in the future. The maintenance and development of constructive industrial relations are essential to ensure stable corporate management foundations and attract investment from overseas. Trade unions in African countries are required to understand that both labour and management must be able to enjoy the benefits.
On the final day the participants drew up individual action plans showing how they intended to use what they had learned in the program in their activities back home from now on. Their proposals included “survey and research for the establishment of a labour bank,” “efforts to promote the productivity movement,” and “introduction of the concept of labour-management cooperation.”