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

Visit to 43rd Tokyo Motor Show 2013

Visit to Honda Motor Co. Ltd headquarters

In general, the 5-day workshop has successfully examined the current issues and challenges of Japan’s labor-management relations system. However it focused much on Honda Motor’s management strategies and its workers’ union. Also discussed was Japan’s historical perspective about the country’s productivity movement through its Japan Productivity Center, and the current policies of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry towards the automobile sector and its allied organizations.



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. The latter was not given emphasis or importance.

R. Elbo, KMT

My personal objective in attending the program is to update my knowledge of Japan’s labor relations system and to get ideas on how Filipino managers could also benefit from it.


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.

During the group work, the printed materials or handouts provided greatly helped understand and appreciate the topics discussed.

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 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.

R. Elbo, KMT

In general, I should say that the workshop has succeeded in meeting its objectives, except that it would have been better if APO-JPC has included resource speakers from Toyota Motor (the biggest auto manufacturer) and Japan Business Federation, the umbrella organization of all employers and the management sector. This should afford the participants a well-rounded understanding of Japan’s labor relations system.



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.

R. Elbo, KMT

LMC is very much alive in major Japanese businesses as one important component to ensure industrial harmony. I wish the Philippines could duplicate such initiative through the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, if not through DAP, although I’m not sure if LMC is still part of the latter’s current programs.

As promised to APO/JPC/DAP, I have already written two articles about this Tokyo workshop in my weekly columns as follows:

1. “New Trends in Japan’s Labor Relations System”, BusinessWorld, “In the Workplace” Nov. 22, 2013
2. “Glocalization 2: Global Thinking is Best Done at the Local Level,” The Manila Times, Nov 25, 2013

These articles and our photo with APO Sec-Gen Mari Amano can be accessed through my Facebook page http://www.facebook/rey.elbo


National Executive Vice-President
Associated Labor Unions – TUCP

Founder and Chief Strategist
Kairos Management Technologies


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