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RENGO Holds 62nd Central Committee Meeting

RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held its 62nd Central Committee meeting on May 31 with the participation of 320 people, including central executive committee members and representatives of all of its affiliates and locals. The Central Committee meeting which is held every six months is the second important meeting after the Convention which is held every two years. The meeting this time was held in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, with the aims of getting to know the present condition of the disaster areas, which suffered enormous damages in last year's Great East Japan Earthquake, and deepening solidarity and bonds between the disaster areas and RENGO as a whole. It was the first time in 10 years for a Central Committee meeting to be held outside Tokyo.

At the beginning of the meeting, RENGO President Nobuaki Koga addressed to the participants on behalf of the RENGO headquarters. In his address, President Koga emphasized that fifteen months had passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, but the recovery of the disaster areas and reconstruction of people's lives were not progressing as hoped. He also stressed that it was important to provide organized and sustained support and endeavor to achieve future-oriented regional and employment regeneration, such as reconstruction projects that would lead to the creation of new jobs and sustained employment."

Then, Miyagi Prefecture Governor Yoshihiro Murai, who was invited as a guest, delivered a speech titled "A Year after the Great East Japan Earthquake: Recovery and Reconstruction Efforts in Miyagi Prefecture," in which he outlined conditions in the prefecture, its disaster reconstruction plans, and its efforts to achieve reconstruction.

In the proceedings, RENGO headquarters proposed 1) a plan to realize a "10-million-member-strong RENGO," 2) draft priority policies for RENGO in FY2013, and 3) a draft interim report on the 2012 Spring Labour Struggle for a Better Life. Then, RENGO affiliates and locals expressed their opinions on or requests for such matters as further measures for the disaster areas and people who suffered damages in the earthquake and tsunami, the response to issues relating to medical treatment and nursing care in the disaster areas, and the need to deepen policy discussions toward the 2013 spring labor struggle. RENGO headquarters gave its views on these opinions and requests. The participants confirmed the proposals as a whole and unanimously approved them.

Main Points of RENGO President Koga's Address

1) Plan to Realize a 10-Million-Member-Strong RENGO
As a medium- to long-term strategy to break through the decline in the organization ratio, RENGO will aim at realizing a 10-million-member-strong RENGO on the basis of a study which will be conducted by the project team to be set up under the Organization Committee. In the eight years up to 2020, organization expansion will be the main pillar of the RENGO movement. The headquarters, affiliates and locals will strengthen their mutual solidarity and make the utmost efforts to realize this plan.

2) Interim Report on the 2012 Spring Labour Struggle for a Better Life
According to interim totaled results, the wage increases obtained by the 2012 Spring Labour Struggle for a Better Life were just about the same level as last year. There is much to reflect on, however, because they did not go as far as the level needed to restore personal consumption. In spring labour struggles from now on, RENGO, as the social responsibility of trade unions, will make stronger efforts to pursue more distribution to working people as a whole from the perspective of social consistency, so as to meet the expectations of society.

3) Priority Policies of RENGO in FY 2013
In the second fiscal year of the FY 2012-13 Policy and System Demands and Proposals, adopted at last year's convention, RENGO will concentrate on policies and systems that especially need to be realized. As a result of the contraction of business activities, corporate bankruptcies, and so on in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, employment has suffered considerably, and the unemployment situation remains severe.

The creation of high-quality employment is essential in order to fundamentally improve the employment problem. It is important to further establish legislation toward improving the rights and conditions of non-regular workers, including revisions of the Labour Contract Act and Part-time Work Act so as to systematically legalize fixed-term employment.

In addition, the employment situation for new graduates and young people is serious. RENGO will aim to create high-quality employment for young people by increasing opportunities for occupational skill development. For that purpose, the measures centered on vocational training and support for finding employment for young part-time job hoppers to find regular employment must be strengthened. Moreover, workplace problems such as the violation of labour laws and harassment must be eliminated and the chain of poverty must be cut off.

Furthermore, as a means of ensuring employment for people who wish to continue to work until the age of 65 and enabling them to design their lives in old age, RENGO will call for an early enactment of a bill to revise the Act concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons. In this and other ways, RENGO will endeavor to expand employment centered on the concept of decent work and engage in activities aiming for the recovery of the quality of employment.

World Day against Child Labour

As a day on which to appeal to the world for the elimination of child labour, the International Labour Organization (ILO) designates June 12 as the World Day against Child Labour with the aim of abolishing the worst forms of child labour.
In Japan, the Child Labour Network (CL-Net), which has a membership of nongovernmental organizations and labour unions, designated May and June as the World Day against Child Labour campaign period, holding various events, conducting a signature-collecting drive for the elimination of child labour, and implementing awareness-raising activities.
As the main event in this World Day against Child Labour campaign, on June 10 the CL-Net, NGO-Trade Union International Collaboration Forum, and International Labour Organization (ILO) Office in Japan showed a film about child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and held a symposium. About 570 people attended the event, including members of the public and students.
This event is organized every year as part of the World Day against Child Labour on June 12. This year's theme was "Let's talk about the future of children."
On the occasion, JILAF, which is a member of both the NGO-Trade Union International Collaboration Forum and the CL-Net, held a panel exhibition on its "School Projects for the Eradication of Child Labour" in India and Nepal, in which it introduced the present state of child labour in those countries.
The first session featured the film depicting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a keynote speech by Michel Chikwanine, who is actually a former child soldier himself.
Child soldiers are children who are kidnapped by antigovernment guerrillas and brought up as fighters in conflict areas around the world. Michel got caught up in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the age of five and worked as a child soldier; he was forced to kill every day. "When I was five," he said, "I was ordered to kill a friend and made to work as a child soldier. It's a very sad story, but it's the truth. . . . In order to solve this problem, it is important to take action, holding events and lectures to convey the present state of various forms of child labour and appealing to public opinion."
Next, there was a report by ILO Japan Office Director Keiko Kamioka on the present state of child labour in the world and a panel discussion by groups tackling the problem of child labour on the theme of "Aiming for a world in which the rights of children are protected." Through this discussion, the participants shared information on the problem of child labour, including (1) the need to provide children with educational opportunities and to solve the problem of poverty by stabilizing the income of parents; (2) the need for cooperation transcending region, community, and sector; (3) the importance of lobbying elected representatives and companies at the local level; and (4) the need to think not separately about individual problems like conflicts, human rights violations, and poverty, but in a total manner. The voice of every individual, it was said, would yield results and gradually change the world.

Report by ILO Japan Office Director Kamioka

No. of child workers in the world
There are 215 million child workers around the world. Although there has been a decline since 2004, when the figure was 220 million, the number of child workers aged 15-17 has risen by 20% from 52 million to 62 million.

No. of child workers by region
It is alarming that of children aged 5-17 years, one in four is engaged in child labour in sub-Saharan Africa, one in eight in the Asia-Pacific region, and one in 10 in the Latin America-Caribbean region.

No. of child workers engaged in dangerous and harmful work
Although the number of children engaged in dangerous and harmful work, a typical worst form of child labour, is declining, the figure is still around 150 million.

"Worst forms of child labour"
In the ILO's Convention No. 182, the "worst forms of child labour" are defined as the following work done by children under the age of 18 years: (1) human trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, and compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (2) prostitution and the production of pornography; (3) illicit activities, such as the production and trafficking of drugs; and (4) dangerous and harmful work that is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children and impede their sound spiritual and physical growth.

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