JILAF and the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) jointly held industrial relations and labour policy seminars on the main theme of “The building of constructive industrial relations toward the prevention of industrial disputes” in the Lao capital of Vientiane on November 16–17 and in Champasak in southern Laos on November 18–19, 2020. (Participation from Japan was online.) The seminar in Vientiane was attended by 76 people and the one in Champasak by 63 people.
At the seminar in Vientiane, JILAF Counselor Koichi Oyama gave an opening address explaining the significance of the seminar. Addresses were also heard from Director Mr. Phonesan Vilaymeng of the LFTU’s Labour Department, Director Ponsisackof the Labour Protection Department of the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW), and Vice-President Mr. Xaybandith Rasphone of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCCI), who all expressed their expectations of the seminar.
After mentioning measures in Japan to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on employment, JILAF Counselor Oyama then spoke about the role and issues of trade unions, sharing information mainly on efforts to build constructive industrial relations and prevent pointless industrial disputes, as well as the historical background. The participants asked questions on such matters as the characteristics and issues of industrial disputes in Japan, problems in trade union organization, including among nonregular workers, and the detailed processes of collective bargaining and labour-management consultations, to which JILAF Counselor Oyama gave replies.
In addition, Director Ponsisack of the MLSW’s Labour Protection Department explained in detail about the incidence of industrial disputes in Laos and the resolution process; the LNCCCI explained efforts by the employers’ organization to settle industrial disputes; and the LFTU explained measures taken by the LFTU to protect workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the detailed flow of procedures to settle industrial disputes.
After the lectures, the participants divided into groups to compile action plans on the theme of “Efforts to prevent industrial disputes.” Presentations from the groups included proposals to (1) implement organization and regular communication activities, (2) deepen mutual understanding of each other’s position through the disclosure of company information to the trade union, and (3) compile written documents relating to the content of labour contracts. JILAF Counselor Oyama expressed his agreement with the proposal in the action plan to document labour contracts, saying that the lack of documentation of labour contract contents was a major cause of industrial disputes in Japan as well. “Regarding industrial relations,” he went on, “it is important to nip industrial disputes in the bud through not only collective bargaining but also close mutual communication. In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic is serious at the moment, but precisely at such a difficult time, it is essential to have in-depth discussions. I very much look forward to your activities from now on.”
At the seminar in Champasak in southern Laos, after mentioning measures in Japan to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on employment, JILAF Counselor Oyama spoke about the role and issues of trade unions, sharing information mainly on efforts to build constructive industrial relations and prevent pointless industrial disputes, as well as the historical background. The participants asked questions on such matters as the process of determining the minimum wage in Japan and the handling of an industrial dispute when no labour contract exists, to which JILAF Counselor Oyama gave replies. In addition, as in the Vientiane seminar, the Champasak Branch of the MLSW and the LFTU gave detailed explanations of industrial disputes and the resolution mechanism, thereby enabling participants in the Champasak seminar also to deepen their understanding.
The participants in Champasak also compiled action plans on the same theme as the Vientiane seminar. Their presentations included proposals to (1) create opportunities for regular tripartite communication among the government, labour, and management and (2) promote the documentation of labour contracts.
Finally, Deputy Director of the LFTU’s Labour Protection Department ended the seminar with the comment, “Through this study of industrial relations and labour legislation in Japan and our discussions, we have gained significant hints for the government, labour, and management in Laos to walk hand in hand.”