Report: Labor-Management Relations with Special Focus on the Automobile Industry Workshop, November 18-23, 2013, Tokyo, Japan

Taken during 43rd Tokyo Motor Show 2013

Taken during 43rd Tokyo Motor Show 2013


The workshop in general fairly examined the current issues and challenges of Japan’s labor-management relations systems by focusing on Honda Motors Corporation and Honda workers’ union. It did not examine other automobile manufacturing companies and unions such as Mitsubishi, Toyota, Isuzu, Suzuki, etc. to provide broader understanding and appreciation on how sound labor-management relations are maintained or strengthened and how productivity improvement programs are develop and implemented.


My objective was to get updated on evolving labor-management relations best practices, legal framework, issues, future challenges and guidance relative to maintaining harmonious, productive and just labor-management relations with national, regional and global perspective. I also expected to learn how Japanese companies and unions develop and implement productivity improvement program.


There were 22 participants who attended and completed the workshop: 2 from India (labor and employer), 5 from Indonesia (2 employer, 2 government and 1 labor), 2 from Malaysia (government and academe), 2 from Pakistan (government and employer), 4 from Thailand (2 government, 1 employer, 1 trade union), 4 from Vietnam (2 employer, 2 government), and 3 from Philippines (Mr. Reylito Elbo, Founder and Chief Strategist, Kairos Management Technologies, Ms. Nina Estudillo, Consultant, Development Academy of the Philippines, and Mr. Gerard R. Seno, National Executive Vice President, Associated Labor Unions-TUCP) who represented government, employer/media and labor, respectively.


The program covered the following topics/subjects: a) Current and future labor management issues, b) Labor management rule and regulations under Japan Labor Act, c) Steps to be undertaken by management to improve relations, d) Obligations of labor to management, e) Role of government and related organizations in constructive labor management, f) Best practices in labor management relations, g) Country paper of participants’ on labor-management relations with focus on automotive industry.

The methodology adopted was a combination of lecture, discussion, open forum, group work and site visits to headquarters of Honda Motor Co., Ltd, Honda Motors Workers’ Union, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and 43rd Tokyo Motor Show 2013.

The flow of the program was very well planned. The participants were given proper orientation about the vision, mission and activities of APO and JPC, followed by excellent lecture/discussion by Dr. Mitsuhide Shiraki on recent status and challenges on human resource management, and labor relations in the Asia-Pacific. This session met my expectation to get update on evolving trends, issues and challenges on the subject with national and regional perspective.


The knowledge I acquired during the 5-day program was sufficient. It gave me better appreciation on the importance of promoting mutual respect and understanding, respect for individual’s dignity, transparency, open-door policy, weekly dialogue between top management and rank and file, mutual understanding of employee needs and corporate goals/objectives. What I am not sure is whether these values and philosophies are the same for Toyota, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, etc.


Japan’s labor management relations system and productivity programs are worth emulating. Its philosophy and good practices should be shared to countries in Asia especially in those countries with high incidence of industrial unrest and low productivity.

For the benefit of the next or succeeding batches, I suggest the organizers include in the study how productivity programs are jointly developed and implemented by labor and management and role of government. The 3 Philippine participants have agreed to conduct echo seminar sometime in January 2014 to share their experiences and help promote and motivate chief executive officers, labor leaders, human resource managers, and labor relations practitioners to adopt Japan’s good labor management relation practices.

National Executive Vice-President
TUCP-Associated Labor Unions


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