JILAF invited 10 persons from the Federation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (FTUM) to visit Japan from June 22 to July 1.
Following a revision of Myanmar’s trade union law in 2011, controls on trade union activities, which were banned under the military government, and the rights of workers have been eased in that country. Nevertheless, though, under the compulsory registration system, the FTUM, which is Myanmar’s national center, does not legally exist even today. Furthermore, in order to organize a trade union, it is necessary for the workplace to employ at least 30 workers and for at least 10% of the entire work force to participate. These conditions make it extremely difficult to organize a union.
Against the background of this situation, the participants eagerly took part in the training program with the aim of absorbing as much as possible and endeavoring to improve the conditions of Myanmar’s workers, establish labour-related legislation, organize unions, and strengthen the FTUM’s functions as a national center. In addition, the participants all appeared to have a desire to use the Japanese trade union system as a reference in order to expand and strengthen organizations in Myanmar, boost the social presence of trade unions, organize trade unions at all levels, and display the power of trade unions to the utmost.
In a visit to the headquarters of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), the participants showed much interest in the joint efforts of the RENGO Headquarters, industrial federations, and regional branches of RENGO to expand the organization and realize the target of achieving a “10-million-strong RENGO” by 2020. Comparing specific examples of unionization and other activities with the situation in Myanmar, the participants were once again made aware of the importance of organization.
In the industrial federation program, the participants visited UA Zensen (Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service, and General Workers’ Unions), where they received an explanation of UA Zensen’s structure and activities, as well as its efforts toward democratic trade union management and organizational strengthening. The participants felt the importance, even in difficult conditions, of continuing the movement and nurturing the next generation. In the workplace visit, they visited the Kanamachi Water Purification Plant, which is a member of Zensuido (All Japan Water Supply Workers’ Union). Here the participants heard an explanation of the water treatment system for supplying safe and delicious water. Among other things, they showed interest in the fact that sewage treatment capability had been improved by an advanced water treatment facility using ozone.
The participants made such comments as “I want to take advantage of what I have learned in Japan and tackle organization expansion more actively” and “I want to convey what I have learned in Japan to as many people as possible and make efforts to change current laws so that they are more oriented toward workers.”