On 25 and 26 June, over 30 delegates from Japan, USA and Europe met to hold their annual trade union network meeting in Caterpillar. In addition, guests from Komatsu trade union attended the meeting in order to exchange experiences.
This year, for the first time, the network met in Sagamihara, near Tokyo, where the plant will be shut down following a management decision in late 2016. Since then, more than 15’000 jobs in Caterpillar worldwide have been lost, while dividends remain untouched.
Many plants have been shut down in the last two years, while others have been significantly scaled down. Sagamihara plant is set to fold and be demolished by the end of this year. Fortunately, the Japanese Caterpillar workers’ union, a JBU affiliate, managed to reduce redundancies to a minimum, transferring many workers to other companies or the Akashi plant. Still, a plant closure is always a sad story for the workers and their families.
Caterpillar workers’ union president, Takei Hideki, said:
“It was a really good experience for me and our members who participated in this meeting to learn about other country’s actions and problems. I hope that we succeed and strengthen the solidarity among Caterpillar workers around the world.”
Kenichi Kanda, president of Japan Federation of Basic Industry Workers’ Union (JBU) andKouichi Asanuma, General Secretary of Japan Council of Metal workers(JCM) alsoaddressed the meeting.
Discussions in the network and in the working groups circled around the proposal to demand better dialogue from the company in order to prevent bad decisions and plant closures. The network strives to make Caterpillar a better company and to achieve this though better management-employee relations.
Komatsu employees’ union president also addressed the meeting and described the Japanese style of social dialogue, which is fundamentally different from other regions in the world.
Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for mechanical engineering, summarised the meeting, bearing in mind that most Japanese colleagues were not aware that the English word “caterpillar” also describes an insect:
“We know that Caterpillar can become more successful in the future when management sees the workers and their trade unions as partners, not as enemies. The trade union network and its participating members are always open to fair dialogue. This will be good for the workers, but also for the companies. Thus, the insatiable caterpillar might really become a beautiful butterfly.”
The network adopted a joint plan for activities. All participants are determined to continue networking. The exchange between different trade unions and regions is crucial for a good understanding in such a multinational corporation. In addition, it is hoped the latest announcements from corporate management to initiate discussions about human rights will lead to a better dialogue. The caterpillar global union network is ready to enter into this dialogue.
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