Summary on Zenroren International Symposium 2015
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
November 15, 2015
The Zenroren International Symposium on Achieving Labor Standards under Globalization
-Trade Union Struggle against Global Corporations ? held from November 13-15, 2015, in Tokyo, was attended by Andrew Dettmer from Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Denis Meynent from the Confederation Generale du Travail (French General Confederation of Labor, CGT), Gautam Mody from India’s New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), Rekson Silaban from the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperity Trade Unions (KSBSI), Park Seok-min from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Nicholas Rudikoff from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), USA, and Stephanie Luce, professor of labor studies at the Murphy Institut, City University of New York..
The symposium was also attended by 180 Japanese activists, including those from Zenroren member unions, friendly unions, and civic organizations, as well as researchers, lawyers, and media people.
The main aim of the symposium was to deepen discussion on the present state of economic globalization that rapidly developed in the 21st century, the development of international solidarity in the trade union movement, its lessons and future tasks, and ways to further strengthening international solidarity. It was the first Zenroren international symposium in 15 years.
Although time was limited to 3 days for discussion, we believe that the symposium successfully achieved goal set for the disussion. We would like to express our thanks to all those who cooperated in organization of the symposium.
Zenroren President ODAGAWA Yoshikazu gave the opening speech on behalf of the organizers, followed by discussions in 4 sessions.
Session I was devoted to discussion on “Labor Movement in a Neoliberal World”.
After the keynote report by Zenroren Secretary General INOUE Hisashi, Professor Stephanie Luce gave the introductory presentation on “Labor Movements: Global Perspectives”. She spoke about increasing neoliberal policies and their harmful impacts, which have prompted international agencies to review such practices and encouraged trade unions to increase their fight-back demanding a minimum wage increase or living wage campaigns. She particularly made clear that fast food workers have led a struggle strategically and militantly and produced good results.
Zenroren has also been pushing ahead with a socialized struggle for wage increase. While developing it with a view to developing it into a real struggle to establish a national uniform minimum wage system as a national minimum measure, we are comprehensively calling for a minimum wage struggle in the broad sense of the word to leave no worker in each community paid less than 1,000 yen per hour, win a public contract ordinance, and increase wages of the public employees. In the symposium we learned a lot from Professor Luce’s lecture and discussions.
We will try to use what we have learned from the symposium in our activities so that we can report successes when we meet the next time.
Session II was on “Struggle for Achieving Decent Work and Labor Standards.”
Denis Meynent from the Confederation Generale du Travail (General Confederation of Labor, CGT), France, reported on “European Union: Labor standards under the pressure of neoliberalism and austerity policies”. He spoke about how the “Troika” ? the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission ? are pressing European nations to implement austerity programs, budget cuts, and cutbacks in labor costs and how workers are fighting back in France and the rest of Europe.
Andrew Dettmer from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) reported about the Abbot government’s promotion of free trade pacts, attacks on union rights, including the right to strike, and the workers’ struggle against them. He stressed the importance of establishing international rules of taxation to regulate multinational corporations’ activities and the importance of labor movements carrying out activities in international solidarity.
Zenroren’s Vice-President NOMURA Yukihiro reported on the struggle for decent work and labor standards.
Participants took park in the discussion.
Session III discussed the theme of “Fight against Global Corporations.”
Park Seok-min from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea, reported about labor reforms strongly promoted under the Park Geun-hye government and trade unions struggling for job creation by setting an upper limit on the number of working hours and by raising the minimum wage. While we were meeting in this symposium, South Korean workers held a national rally on November 14, declaring a general strike and expressing their determination to rise in popular struggle.
Rekson Silaban from the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperity Trade Unions (KSBSI) spoke about the importance of focusing on multinational corporations and their global supply chains. He said his union has selected multinational companies to be targets of the union struggle and is carrying out a strategic struggle by creating a labor union network demanding decent work. He also said his union is calling on other Asian trade unions to participate in the project and has signed an agreement to this effect with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL).
Gautam Mody from India’s New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) reported on global corporations doing business in India. Referring to the working conditions and union busting at Maruti Suzuki India, he stressed the importance of cross border union struggles and expressed hope for continued cooperation from Zenroren.
Zenroren Vice-President NEMOTO Takashi expressed determination to work to help build sustainable local economies as well as international cooperation based on the experience of struggles waged with international cooperation at Nestle Japan and Japan Acrylic.
Speakers from the floor also joined the discussion.
The Session IV was about the Significance and Challenge for Today’s International Solidarity Movement.
Nicholas Rudikoff from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gave a vivid report on how the “Fight for 15” is spreading throughout the United States. He explained several key aspects of this struggle, including one of uncompromising posture of going on strike. He called on workers in other countries to do the same.
Zenroren’s international director FUSE Keisuke reported on the confederation’s international activities, expressing the determination to increase study within the organization and play an even greater role in the international labor movement.
Participants took part in the discussion from the floor.
We think we should confirm the following 4 points as lessons drawn from this international symposium for our future activities.
First, the symposium made clear that, with the economy being globalized rapidly, many countries pushing for a series of neoliberal reforms, cutting labor costs and launching attacks to weaken the unions and stressed the importance for the trade union movement to further increase international solidarity to fight back globally.
It is necessary to continually hold discussions, just as we had in this symposium, exchange views bilaterally, and day-to-day share information. Zenroren will work to strengthen the effort to increase such cooperation.
Secondly, considering that the large global corporations are continuing to grow, that state regulation on corporate activities are being weakened, that union power is being slashed, that economic inequalities are expanding and that poverty is increasing, the symposium underlined the importance of paying closer attention to the growing gaps between rich and poor, and increasing the struggle to achieve minimum regulations and strengthen social protection programs. Participants confirmed that such struggles are growing in various countries.
We particularly note a major development in the US of the “Fight for 15” as a lesson. It is necessary for us to strengthen international cooperation to help further develop the movement in each country to demand a minimum wage increase or living wage.
Symposium participants also confirmed the importance of the struggle to defend migrant workers’ rights, including human rights.
Zenroren has renewed its determination to further intensify the socialized struggle for higher wages and for minimum regulation.
Thirdly, as the adverse impact of economic globalization and neoliberal reforms is clearer than ever, there are moves growing in various countries and international agencies. The symposium confirmed that the trade unions have a greater role to play on this issue.
In this respect, the next year’s ILO general assembly will take up the issue of global supply chains. Although it is going to be dealt with in general debate, it will offer a very important opportunity. Using this ILO general assembly session we should work together to get the international regulations strengthened.
Fourthly, the symposium made clear that we should together organize a struggle against the global corporations’ tyranny and for international regulations to be imposed on them.
We hope to work on this issue in many ways to join forces to repel attacks by more frequently sharing information and coordinate demands for policies.
Zenroren is also determined to carry out its own demands by increasing the use of international framework agreements.
Finally, we would like to sincerely thank all the seven friends and many activists from various sectors in Japan for contributing to the successful international symposium.