SGRA Project by the JILAF Thailand Office in Vientiane, Laos (November)

The JILAF Thailand Office implemented activities relating to the SGRA project (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network) in Vientiane on November 7–9.

On the basis of matters confirmed in the first meeting of the Central Promotion Committee on May 30, the second meeting of the committee was held to confirm progress of the project, results, and achievements since May 2017 and to discuss policies with a view to future development.

In addition, an Expanded Working Committee seminar was held from the perspective of promoting independent and self-supporting management, centered on strengthening and development of the project and core factors.

At the second meeting of the Central Promotion Committee on November 7, Director Teruhiko Sekiguchi of the JILAF Thailand Office kicked off by expressing his appreciation for achievements in the first half of fiscal 2017 and the driving role played by the Central Promotion Committee and his hope for further independent project development led by the government, labour, and management.

In response, Director General Ounkam Bounyaseing of the Labour Protection Department at the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) again expressed his gratitude for the cooperation from JILAF and the Japanese government and his commitment to realizing the independence and self-sustenance of the project by strengthening the government-labour-management framework in Laos.

Director General Ounkam then looked back on the project in the first half of fiscal 2017 and reported on such matters as the stable management of the mutual-aid insurance system by SGRA cooperatives.

Next, Deputy Director Yuki Otsuji of the JILAF Thailand Office proposed an activity plan for the second half of fiscal 2017 and a policy for fiscal 2018 assuming the continuation of grants from the Japanese government in the next fiscal year.

In response, the members of the Central Promotion Committee confirmed
(1) the continued development of the project in the present four regions (Vientiane, Savannakhet, Champasak, and Oudomxay) and
(2) approving key points in the activities of the Regional Working Committees aiming for the independence and self-sustenance of the project, including their strengthening of human resource development, the further examination and realization of activity content at the third meeting of the Central Promotion Committee (scheduled to be held in January 2018).

Participants made the following statements:
---Toward stable management of the mutual-aid insurance system, since it is important to ensure transparency for network members, financial management know-how should be included in human resource development. (LFTU representative)

---Since the Lao government has designated 2018 as a “year of tourism,” the project for tuk-tuk drivers (drivers of three-wheeled motorbike taxis) is going to become increasingly important. (Government representative from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare)

---Training for women entrepreneurs is being carried out (know-how on the use of personal computers, basic accounting) and should be promoted in collaboration with the SGRA project. (Representative of employers’ organization)

The second meeting of the Expanded Working Committee on November 8–9 was attended by 43 representatives from the Regional Working Committees made up of members from the government, labour, and management in three regions where the SGRA project is being implemented (Vientiane, Savannakhet, and Champasak).

Director General Ounkam delivered an opening address at the request of LFTU President Pan Noymany, after which Director Sekiguchi of the JILAF Thailand Office expressed his appreciation for the daily efforts being made, with a sense of ownership, by government, labour, and management in the regions and requested continued cooperation in the project.

Mr. Shigemi Aoki, head of the Business Administration Division at Japan’s Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association for Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance) then expressed his appreciation for the fact that Laos has achieved spectacular results despite being later than other countries in launching the project and said that he wanted to share Japan’s experience in mutual-aid insurance and to contribute to mutual-aid efforts in Laos and to improving the livelihoods of informal-sector workers.

Next, Mr. Naohiro Tsukamoto, a section chief in Zenrosai Kyokai’s Survey and Research Division, delivered a special lecture titled “Toward Consideration of Mutual Aid,” in which he gave an outline of the history of Zenrosai and its mutual-aid insurance menu, as well as a detailed explanation of Zenrosai’s setup at the time of its establishment and today.

In response, expressing a common desire to reflect this experience in the management of SGRA cooperatives, the participants asked questions about such matters as
(1) contributions and premiums and their management, (2) the relationship between mutual-aid insurance and the social security system, and (3) transparent management.

Mr. Aoki and Mr. Tsukamoto gave pertinent replies to these questions. In addition, Director General Ounkam shared information on cooperative management know-how in Laos.

After the lectures by Zenrosai Kyokai and the LFTU, the participants compiled and presented action plans toward the strengthening of SGRA cooperatives, the main points of which were as follows:

---Promotional activities toward the expansion of membership (common to all regions)

---Addition of mutual-aid insurance schemes matching the needs of network members and further promotion of membership (Vientiane tuk-tuk drivers)

---Establishment of mutual-aid accident insurance scheme (Vientiane tuk-tuk drivers)

---Consideration of the introduction of condolence money for natural disasters (floods, etc.) and illness (Savannakhet vegetable farmers)

---Joint purchase and joint use of agricultural equipment, storehouses, etc. (Champasak coffee farmers)

In response, Deputy Director Otsuji of the JILAF Thailand Office explained JILAF’s thoughts on the future development of the SGRA project to the participants and commented that the strengthening of SGRA cooperatives was essential for independent project management.

Finally, Mr. Aoki of Zenrosai Kyokai commented, “Since the mutual-aid insurance system is not visible, it might be difficult to gain understanding from network members. I hope that you will place importance on relations of trust with each and every member and take time in your efforts to design and manage the system.” Director General Ounkam then ended the meeting with a wrap-up of the proceedings.

In addition, on November 9 Director Sekiguchi of the JILAF Thailand Office and others inspected the work of SGRA network members in Vientiane (tuk-tuk drivers), hearing about their reasons for doing this job, the working conditions, and the instability of this kind of working environment.

Schedule

DateContents
11/07Tue2nd Central Roundtable meeting
11/08Wed2nd Expanded Working Committee meeting day one
11/09Thu2nd Expanded Working Committee meeting day two (inspection of work of informal-sector workers)