ILO Seminar Report of 28th January

Increasing importance of constructive industrial relations in supply chains in Asia

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and Japan Council of Metalworkers' Unions (JCM) conducted a training seminar to promote constructive labour-management relationship in supply chains in Asia

News | 28 January 2020
Japan, Tokyo (ILO News) - The importance of constructive relationships in supply chains and the best ways to address industrial disputes in foreign operations were the themes of a training seminar and knowledge sharing exercise. Approximately 150 participants, mostly from trade unions, heard from ILO and JCM experts about the role and history of ILO, the expected role of Japanese businesses in supply chains and shared expertise on the timely resolution of industrial tensions.
【Photo1. Welcome remarks by Mr Akira Takakura (President of JCM)】

In a keynote presentation, Mr Pong-Sul Ahn, Regional Specialist in Workers Education, ILO Regional Office for Asia-Pacific, explained to delegates that tripartism and social dialogue have played an important historical role as a source of peace, reconstruction and democratization after the first and second World Wars. As well, they have been tools for promoting social justice in times of social and economic crises. Mr Ahn highlighted the ILO’s historical role since its foundation of 1919 in setting international instruments (ILO conventions, recommendations, protocols and Declarations) to handle global challenges. The evolution of the ILO core conventions and Declarations over the last century was capped by the adoption of the Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.
【Photo 2. Mr Pong-Sul Ahn (ILO)】

Mr Ahn also introduced the ILO Declaration on Multinational Enterprises and Social Policies (amended in 2017), stressing the different role of MNEs and tripartite partners for corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and constructive industrial relations in supply chains. He referred to model cases of resolving labour disputes in Asia, including a case from Indonesia featuring a mediatory process where all the stakeholders joined.

Ms Akiko Gono, ILO Governing Board member from workers’ organizations (Advisor on International Affairs, JTUC-Rengo / General Secretary, IndustriALL Japan Liason Council) presented the engagement of the ILO with Japanese trade unions. She emphasized that businesses are responsible for complying with international labour standards across global supply chains, noting that national laws do not necessarily protect workers and citing examples in Asia where workers’ rights, such as the freedom of association, are seriously violated. She explained the role of ILO in protecting workers and demonstrated how the ILO can be involved in industrial disputes. She also pointed out that Japanese companies are increasingly conscious of CSR expectations and they also recognize the potential harm for Japanese companies if they addressed by the Committee on Freedom of Association.  Ms Gono introduced the ILO Centenary Declaration and the latest ILO convention No. 190 regarding violence and harassment and called for early ratification to protect workers from harassment in Japan. 
【Photo 3. Ms Akiko Gono (ILO GB member from workers’ organizations)】

Mr Shinya Iwai, Chief Assistant Director, International Affairs Bureau, JCM presented the outcome of research regarding industrial disputes of Japanese affiliated companies overseas. He stressed that building a constructive industrial relationship plays a key role in addressing disputes by noting that: 1) companies be mindful of the international labour standards wherever they operate; 2) identify and deal with a minor trouble before it expands; 3) management and workers seek to resolve the dispute locally through dialogue; and 4) if all the local efforts fail, obtain assistance from umbrella organizations or from trade unions in Japan to escalate the issue to the headquarters.
【Photo 4. Mr Shinya Iwai (JCM) 】

JCM aims to raise awareness of constructive industrial relations among Japanese employers and trade unions by regularly conducting seminars and workshops both in Japan and overseas. He also demonstrated country case studies analyzing the source of disputes between management and workers. Out of a total of 142 cases of disputes in Japanese affiliated companies reported to JCM since 1999, 101 were disputes in South East Asia, reflecting a significant expectation from local trade unions in the region for assistance from Japanese trade unions and their employers.       

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The Responsible Supply Chains in Asia Programme was developed by the European Union together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to enable governments, businesses and workers to communicate on challenges and opportunities relating to corporate social responsibility in six Asian countries – China, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. It uses as a basis for its research, outreach, policy advocacy and training internationally recognized guidelines on responsible business conduct, the OECD’s Guidelines for multinational enterprises, and the ILO’s MNE declaration.