at the growth of trade unions through overseas cooperation)
- Please tell us
about the background of the establishment of JILAF and what activities
you are doing now.
JILAF was established in May 1989
by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO) as an
organization that would promote international exchange and cooperation
in the field of labour. At the beginning, we started with only
seven executives and staff members. Now we are doing various
activities with 20 people in five groups: invitational programs,
field support projects, public relations, general affairs, and
financial affairs. There are four main activities, that is, invitation,
field projects, human resources development, and public relations.
We started with the Invitation Program right after the establishment
of JILAF. We organize teams of junior trade union leaders mostly
from developing countries by region and by theme, with about
10 people per team, and we invite 11 to 12 teams per year. We
provide them with various programs during two weeks. We invite
participants based on recommendations from each country's national
center, which is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation.
The total number of participants over these 20 years has reached
2,227 individuals from 126 countries and 3 regions.
- Please tell us
more specifically about what you do in the Invitation Program.
The purpose of the Invitation Program
is to contribute to the development of free and democratic trade
unions in developing countries and to increase their social influence.
To help them as much as possible, we provide them with those
programs which facilitate trade unions' functions to monitor
society, politics, and business management, as well as their
ability to propose policies. While visiting Japan, the participants,
first of all, learn about the Japanese labor movement, labor-management
relations, labor administration, and the productivity movement,
among other things. They also visit RENGO, the Japan Productivity
Center, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, and other
labour-related organizations and government offices. One week
after they come to Japan, a meeting is held to exchange views
on the labor situation of their countries. We also carry out
a "Local RENGO program" in cooperation with Local RENGOs in 47
prefectures. Participants visit a regional branch and exchange
views with local companies' labor and management, local municipalities,
and others. Among each program, we always include a visit to
Hiroshima or Nagasaki to visit the Peace Memorial Museum and
the A-Bomb Dome. This is for them to learn about the peace movement
itself and to be convinced of the importance of peace at first
hand. In addition, we have been doing conducting an "invitation
of trade union leaders by theme" for each specific theme.
Last year, we organized teams with focuses on green jobs and
decent work, and we held an international symposium. Among the
program participants who visited Japan 10 or 20 years ago, there
are many who are now leaders of labour movement. There are also
many who are now doing well in political and business worlds.
We are proud of that too.
- So, your Invitation
Program is contributing to human resources development in developing
countries. I guess people who come to Japan see Japanese culture
and ways of thinking for the first time. For them, it must be
a series of discoveries. Such discoveries may become a trigger
to initiate a new movement in their countries' labor movements.
Yes. Japanese labor-management relations
and Japanese ways of management may be very unique when viewed
from other countries in the world. Among developing countries,
before talking about the development of trade unions, there are
many countries where labor movement and the right to organize
are not officially admitted. You may be arrested if you join
a trade union. Even in those countries which are not like that,
even though the idea of productivity movement itself is understood,
they think, "If we do such a thing, we will get fired," and they
hesitate to carry it out. That is often the case in reality.
Besides, they do not understand how trade unions are voluntarily
tackle productivity movement, and they often say, "Why do unions
have to do such a thing?"
- In developing
countries where labor and management are in severe conflict,
things tend to turn out that way. The productivity improvement
in itself has large benefits for both labor and management. If
its essence is understood, it must spread well.
Yes. Most of those who said at the
beginning, "It is not a trade union's work," say, "I am very
interested in the activities of the productivity movement," in
the evaluation session at the end of the program. The idea of
decent work is also based on job security. Only when the employment
contract with a company is secure one can work without worry.
In Japan, the problem of regular employment versus non-regular
employment is drawing close attention, but in many developing
countries, regular and non-regular are mixed together. For such
situations, we are using our experience in Japan and helping
to increase trade unions' power and build proper labor-management
- The Field Project
is a pillar of JILAF along with the Invitation Program. I heard
that your Field Project is also unique.
Our Field Project is unique, because
it is based on trade unions' solidarity and builds a relationship
of trust with their national center in which we properly understand
their needs; thereby we respect their autonomy. There are some
aid organizations that extend pushy support in the form of their
own ideas. But we work to understand what kind of union education
and social development they are interested in, and we go along
with that. In the end, trade unions should stand by themselves.
That is our goal. So we won't do everything in the way we want
- trade unions
should stand alone and become a leading part by themselves to
build proper labor-management relations.
Yes. The initiative is basically
on the local union's side. There, we are supporting them with
our funds and know-how.
- More specifically,
what kind of program are you doing?
Participation-Oriented Safety Improvements
by Trade Union Initiative (POSITIVE) is the core program in the
field. In this program as well, we do not impose a direction
we have chosen, but the trade union takes a leading position
to improve their environment in terms of occupational safety
and health. This program was developed jointly by JILAF and the
Institute for Science of Labour. It has several stages, such
as the introduction stage, the stable stage, and the development
stage. By stepping up these stages, growth is achieved. So far,
we have held more than 1,000 seminars in 11 countries. In fiscal
2009 we started a program in East Timor. We also put emphasis
on fostering advanced trainers to increase the number of leaders
through trade unions' own abilities.
- So, the support
program is not for temporary growth but for future human resources
development as well in its vision. In carrying out the program,
have you facet any difficulties?
To carry out this program and increase
productivity, we sometimes have to change the structure of a
company itself. However, we cannot change the system as we would
like. Local trade unions conduct checks, find out problems, propose
improvement plans, and achieve understanding from both labor
and management. That is important. Many Japanese-owned businesses
believe that they need cooperation between labor and management,
and they welcome proposals from trade unions. But some companies
do not listen at all. In those cases, it is difficult to handle.
- If there is no
culture of listening to a trade union's proposals, then what
do you do?
"We have certain skills and many
achievements. Based on these experiences, we want to propose
such-and-such." We repeat this to appeal to them. There is no
- Wise management
is likely to notice the effectiveness of adopting the program.
I heard that JILAF is also running schools. What is that about?
This is the "project for schools
against child labor." At present, we are running nine informal
schools in Nepal and one in India in cooperation with local trade
unions. In this program, local unions prepare a school building
and teachers, and JILAF provides children's uniforms and school
supplies as well as teachers' salaries. JILAF's informal schools
are for children ages 8 to 14. After they finish this three-year
program, we support them to transfer to a formal school.
- In the medium
and long term, raising children is very important. I heard you
are working on AIDS seminars as a new project. How are you doing
Preventing HIV infection is of course
important, but at the same time, preventing discrimination against
HIV-positive individuals in the workplace, establishing human
rights, and so on are also important. There are many challenges
that trade unions should work on. Under the guidance of the School
of International Health at the University of Tokyo, we have made
a textbook on measures against HIV. We are helping trade union
leaders understand how to treat infected people in the workplace,
and we are training the trainers who guide workplaces. This program
is a new program, started in March of this year as a cooperative
program with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- While talking
with you, I felt it is very important to look at things from
the perspective of trade unions. These days, business is bad,
and morale is low in many organizations. But there are many things
we can do.
JILAF will work on from now on)
- Today, in Japan,
the decreasing labor force is a social problem. If laborers come
in from foreign countries, the problem of foreign workers may
emerge beyond the framework of the regular versus non-regular
problem. Lastly, please tell us about JILAF's ideas on that problem.
That problem should be kept in our
field of view as the next step. Rep, of Korea has an organization
called the Korean International Labor Foundation (KOILAF), which
is doing invitational programs similar to those of JILAF. KOILAF
is doing educational programs for foreign workers in addition
to the invitational programs. As part of that, KOILAF has opened
Labor Counseling Centers that operate in seven languages. Here,
they answer questions on various troubles reported by foreign
workers. We think that JILAF also has to consider what it can
do for foreign workers.
Interviewer:Institute for Career
and Life Design