JILAF invited 10 persons (three women and seven men) from the Federation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (FTUM) to visit Japan from September 1 to 7.
This visit, which was the first time for JILAF to extend an invitation to the FTUM, was made possible by Myanmar’s transition to a civilian government in March 2011, since when, although there are still certain restrictions, the activities of trade unions have been recognized as legal.
Almost all of the participants had less than five years of experience in union activities and were taking part in this kind of training overseas for the first time. For this reason, they were a little apprehensive at first, but by the final day they were much more relaxed and clearly understood the purpose of the Invitation Program.
The series of lectures was originally designed for the Myanmar team and covered a wide range of topics relating to the basics of trade union activities, such as the role of trade unions, the legislative system, organization, and the minimum wage.
All of the participants took part enthusiastically in the lectures, workplace visit, and other activities, and in the discussion sessions they asked many questions and stated their own views.
In the labour-related lecture program, they listened closely to a talk by JILAF Executive Director Hisashige Danno on “Social and Economic Development and the Role of Trade Unions,” making comparisons with the situation in their own country. They also heard lectures on “The Postwar Japanese Economy and History of Trade Unions” and “The Legislative System Supporting Trade Unions,” from which they learned about the history of Japanese trade unions, the mechanism of the spring labour struggle, and labour laws protecting the rights of workers in Japan. In particular, they showed much interest in unionization, the mechanism of the spring labour struggle, and the Trade Union Act relating to the formation of unions; discussions focused on the organization ratio and unionization in Japan and the thinking behind basic wage hike demands in the spring labour struggle.
Regarding the minimum wage setup in Japan, they learned about the details of the Minimum Wage Act, such as the types of minimum wage, the scope of application, and the method of determining the minimum wage. Drawing comparisons with conditions in their own country, the participants actively asked questions about such matters as penalties and the thinking behind extra pay for overtime work, repeatedly confirming the ideas behind the safety net as a whole.
Regarding the democratic management of trade unions and organization strengthening, the lecture was organized in such a way that the participants themselves could make statements about topics that are fundamental for trade union officials, such as the role and necessity of trade unions, the content of activities, the importance of the labour-management consultation system, and collective bargaining procedures. The participants made many comments and suggestions based on their own experiences so far and endeavored to find solutions to problems. At the end of the lectures, each participant set their own targets as trade union officials and shared them with the others.
In the workplace visit, the participants observed the inside of the factory at the Tokyo Metro Ayase Depot and heard about the working environment of union members, efforts to improve the workplace environment, and so on. They asked many questions about the working hours and conditions of workers involved in infrastructure, such as emergency response (calling workers out on holidays or at nighttime) and shift work.
During their visit to the National Diet, the participants also engaged in discussions about the political activities of trade unions. In Myanmar members of the general public are not allowed to visit and inspect parliament, so this part of the program was a valuable experience for them.