JILAF invited nine people from six organizations in five Asian countries to visit Japan from September 28 to October 7, 2014.
This was the first team to consist only of young union leaders aged up to 35 years. Although many of the participants had just a few years of experience in trade union activities, there were also participants who were actively engaged in the labour movement on a daily basis as the heads of company-based unions, for example, so discussions at the lectures and places visited were very lively indeed.
At the labour-related lectures, the participants learned about such topics as the trade union movement in Japan, including the postwar history of trade unions in Japan and the annual spring labour struggle, as well as Japan’s minimum wage system, labour legislation, and democratic trade union management. They showed interest especially in the minimum wage system and social security schemes for public-sector workers.
In the visit to RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they received an explanation of RENGO’s organization, policies, and activities and also heard about the concept of a “secure society centered on work as its core.” Many participants showed special interest in the relationship between the labour movement and politics and efforts to attract young people through publications and education.
In the industrial federation visit, the participants visited Jidosha Soren (Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions), where they received an explanation of the current status and issues of the automobile industry and Jidosha Soren’s organization and role. They showed much interest in what kind of efforts were made by trade unions at the time of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which caused a slump in sales in the automobile industry as a whole. Questions were also asked about the wage systems for the various jobs in the automobile industry and application of the minimum wage.
As a workplace visit, the participants went to the Fujisawa Plant of Isuzu Motors Ltd., where they inspected the plant and held discussions with the Isuzu Motors Workers’ Union. The participants were able to watch the workers directly and see how they performed their jobs safely while handling various heavy machinery. In the discussions, they asked many questions about the specific activities of the union to improve the workplace and welfare, such as the company pension scheme.
In addition, in a discussion on the employment of young people, which JILAF organized for the first time, the participants deepened their understanding of the issues relating to the employment of young people faced by the various countries. As a common problem, it was noted that the ratio of young people engaged in unstable employment, such as informal-sector work and nonregular jobs, was increasing year by year. The participants had a lively discussion about the role of trade unions in overcoming these issues and countermeasures.