JILAF invited a total of 11 persons (of whom 4 were women) from Bangladesh and Mongolia to visit Japan from Monday, December 3 to Sunday, December 16. The whole program was completed as planned.
In a lecture on the role and issues of trade unions in Japan, the participants learned about the postwar history of trade unions in Japan, their social and economic contributions, and the annual spring labour struggle for a better life. They asked questions about what RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) thinks about the organization rate and its relations with regional branches of RENGO and industrial federations.
In a lecture on labour legislation and social security in Japan, the participants heard an outline of recent laws and social security in Japan and deepened their understanding of the application and operation of welfare in Japan (medical insurance, employment insurance, pensions, etc.), as well as the mechanism of collective bargaining in Japan.
In a visit to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the participants received a lecture on employment, workstyles, and the role of the labour administration. They actively asked questions about such matters as the pros and cons of utilizing foreign workers to fill the labour shortage in Japan that will be a cause of concern in the future and the mechanism for employing disabled persons, as well as the causes of death from overwork and specific preventive measures.
In a visit to RENGO, the participants were given an explanation of RENGO’s activities and priority efforts and then heard an overview of various campaigns from the Welfare Policy Division. They asked questions about the starting age for receiving public pension benefits and the method of managing the pension fund and engaged in lively discussions about RENGO’s specific activities in developing countries that are facing violations of such rights as the right of assembly and the right to strike.
In a lecture by an industrial federation, the participants heard from Jichiro (All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Union) about the activities of the organization. With reference to the current situation in their own countries, where organization is not making headway, they engaged in discussions about measures to increase the organization of young workers and learned about collaboration between Jichiro and other industrial federations.
At the Japan Productivity Center, the participants received an explanation of the three guiding principles of productivity and Japanese-style industrial relations and labour-management practices and deepened their understanding of the origins of the Japan Productivity Center, its operation, and safeguarding of the rights of workers in small and medium-sized companies.
In a lecture on the democratic management of trade unions, they engaged in lively discussions of such topics as ways of conveying the advantages of trade union membership to shop-floor workers.
In the Exchange of Views on Labour Situation meeting, the participants reported on the labour situation and issues in their own countries. As common issues in both Bangladesh and Mongolia, they pointed to the upward trend in the number of informal-sector workers, to whom social security is not applied, and the urgency of efforts to raise the status of such workers through organization. The participants from Bangladesh also reported mainly on the frequent involvement of politics in trade union activities and efforts to remedy this situation. The participants from Mongolia reported on present moves in that country to raise the mandatory retirement age and to revise the law on individual income tax.
In a visit to the Saitama Headquarters of the Central Labour Bank, the participants heard about the history, principles, and activities of the labour bank business and asked questions about specific management methods, such as the labour banks’ original loans and financing mechanism.
In the RENGO Saitama program, on the first day, the participants visited the Saitama Polytechnic Center and a Hello Work public employment security office. At the Saitama Polytechnic Center, they received an explanation of its activities and then inspected facilities. They asked questions about the environment for accepting trainees, such as admission fees, training expenses, and allowances, and the ratio of graduates finding jobs.
At the Hello Work office, the participants heard an explanation of the operation of Japan’s employment insurance system and job placement system and inspected the facilities. They seemed to be very impressed by the Hello Work system in Japan.
In discussions with RENGO Saitama officials, the participants engaged in lively discussions about the present downward trend in the number of trade union members and the low participation rates of young people and women, after which they deepened their understanding of the specific efforts of RENGO Saitama targeting workers in small and medium-sized companies.
On the second day, the participants visited the JR East Japan Omiya General Rolling Stock Center and held discussions with labour and management there. They asked questions about the specific care of workers, such as temperature management in the plant, special allowances, and response to industrial accidents, and learned about issues faced by labour and management at the center and efforts to solve them.
In group discussions, the participants talked enthusiastically about the stance of trade union officials at the time of labour-management negotiations. During the discussions, questions were asked about effective methods by which labour could convey the content of its proposals and specific ways of covering shortfalls in education and knowledge.
In a lecture by Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the participants heard an explanation of industrial relations from the point of view of management. They expressed admiration for the present state of wage negotiations and hikes in Japan and learned about specific methods of distributing bonuses.
In a visit to Zenrosai Kyokai (National Association for Workers’ Welfare and Cooperative Insurance), the participants heard an explanation of the mutual-aid insurance business run by a nonprofit organization and showed much interest in the mutual-aid insurance system as a means of stabilizing the livelihoods of workers and giving them peace of mind.
The action plans proposed by the participants contained mainly the following points. As well as improving the organization rate and establishing cooperatives, they particularly showed interest in the implementation of vocational skill training to contribute toward improving the livelihoods and incomes of informal-sector workers. Several action plans included these matters.
(1) “I will promote organizational expansion and organization even more than before. Also, I want to establish cooperatives and form networks among workers themselves.” (Bangladesh, Mongolia)
(2) “I want to implement vocational skill development training for workers in the sewing and computer fields and try to upgrade the skills of workers as a whole.” (Bangladesh)
(3) “Since my country does not have any mutual-aid insurance system operated by trade unions, I would like to build such a system.” (Bangladesh)
(4) “I want to share what I have learned with trade union officials in my own country and put it to use in labour-management negotiations in the future. Also, I want to try and build relations that both employers and trade unions feel are beneficial, such as supplying advance information relating to requests submitted by the union to the employer.” (Mongolia)
|■||Japan Productivity Center||■||Central Labour Bank|
|■||Nippon Keidanren||■||JR East Japan|
Many thanks to everyone.