JILAF invited a total of 12 persons from Laos and Thailand to visit Japan from June 18 to July 1. The team, which consisted of seven men and five women, had a high female ratio, and the active participation of the women in particular was very striking. On the Thai side, the participation this time of the Automobile Labour Congress of Thailand (ALCT) and the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT), which are eagerly engaged in union activities at the company and industrial levels, was a significant stimulus for the other participants from the Thai Council of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-TC).
In the first half of the program, there were lectures on the role and issues of the Japanese labour movement and Japan’s social and labour legislation. In the labour-related lecture on labour legislation, the participants learned systemically about labour legislation, including the state of application of basic labour rights to public-sector and private-sector workers, and there were also lively discussions about Japan’s social security issues as the nation enters an era of an aged society with a low birthrate.
In the visit to RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), they heard from the Department of Organizing about RENGO’s efforts as a national center and ties with regional branches and industrial labour federations. The participants enthusiastically asked questions about issues in the drive to realize a “10 million-strong RENGO” and the background of this campaign.
In the Exchange of Views on Labour Situation meeting, the participants reported on the labour situation and issues in their countries. As common features of both Laos and Thailand, on the positive side, it was reported that (1) the minimum wage is rising, and industrial disputes are on a downward trend, and (2) the extra wage rate for holiday work is at a high level of 200%–350%. On the negative side, it was reported that informal-sector workers account for 70% of all workers in Laos and more than 60% in Thailand, and the reality is that statutory health and welfare measures, such as wage levels, unemployment compensation, and workplace safety, are not applicable to them. The Lao participants pointed to the need to strengthen grassroots efforts to improve the position of informal-sector workers. The Thai participants said that since employers had a severe attitude toward union activities, it is necessary to foster relations of trust between labour and management through dialogue and conduct peaceful union activities.
In the RENGO Iwate program, on the first day the participants visited the East Japan Iwate plant of Toyota Motor Corp., where they inspected the state-of-the-art facilities geared toward high-mix, low-volume production and environmental friendliness and were clearly impressed by the plant’s efficient work processes that place little burden on workers.
In discussions with RENGO Iwate officials, the participants asked questions about industrial relations in Japan and regional and industrial differences in the minimum wage and deepened their understanding of specific efforts relating to the resolution of industrial disputes.
In the lecture by an industrial labour federation, the participants heard from Kikan Roren (Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers’ Unions) about its activities. They asked many questions about the mechanism of the mutual-aid system and the method of payment of union dues and learned about the causes of accidents in basic industries and the efforts of Kikan Roren to reduce the risks of accidents in the future.
In the second half of the program, the participants heard lectures from Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) and the National Association of Labour Banks. Listening to the explanations of industrial relations as seen by employers and the mechanism of workers’ mutual aid, they were able to deepen their understanding of the labour situation in Japan.
On the final day, JILAF officials offered advice to the participants and replied to their questions about organization and the conclusion of labour agreements, thereby helping them to increase their understanding. The participants showed especially strong interest in the conclusion of labour agreements, the improvement of organization, and the revision of labour law and proposed several action plans on these topics.