JILAF invited 11 senior officials (including one woman) of the National Union of Afghanistan’s Workers and Employees (NUAWE) to visit Japan for 10 days from September 27 to October 6, 2015.
More than 14 years have passed since the inauguration of the provisional administration of President Hamid Karzai, and democratization is gradually taking root in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the political, social, and security situation there is still not stable. The participants, who comprised the president and other senior officials of the NUAWE, took an active part in the two-week program out of their desire to realize the democratic social and economic development of their country and strengthen the labour movement for the sake of nation building.
At the lectures and places visited, the participants positively stated their opinions and asked questions, and they earnestly learned about industrial relations, the labour situation, and other issues in Japan. In particular, they asked many questions about such issues as the present state of nonregular workers in Japan and related problems and countermeasures, efforts to enforce compliance with laws and ordinances, and the realization of a gender-equal society.
At RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they listened to a lecture about organization policy and other matters and reaffirmed the importance of worker solidarity. In Afghanistan nonregular workers account for 80% of the labour force, so the participants showed much interest in specific means of organizing such workers.
In the industrial federation visit, the participants visited Koko Rengo (Japan Public Sector Union), where they learned about its organizational structure and campaign policy and also the unique issues and efforts of an industrial federation of trade unions that organizes workers employed in the public sector, such as governmental organizations (ministries, agencies, and local branches), independent administrative corporations, and government-related corporations. The participants learned that almost all of the affiliated unions had open-shop systems and unionization rates were low because young workers do not show much interest in trade unions. They understood the difference between private-sector and public-sector trade unions and compared the situation with that in Afghanistan.
In the workplace visit, the participants went to the Saitama Vocational Training Support Center (Polytechnic Center Saitama), which is affiliated with Koko Rengo. As well as hearing about the center’s organization structure and activities, the participants observed actual vocational training courses. Taking the large high-tech equipment and finished products in their hands, they spoke enthusiastically of their desire to establish a similar facility in Afghanistan, where there are many young people under the age of 25 years but very few educational opportunities or job opportunities.
On the day of their departure from Japan, the participants had the chance to observe RENGO’s 14th Biennial Convention, where they were able to deepen their exchange with overseas guests and Japanese trade union leaders and reaffirm the importance of international solidarity.