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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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Union Organising: The Case of Japan 505


JOHN SALMON Union Organising: The Case of Japan 1. Introduction International interest in recent attempts to renew trade union organisa- tion has increased in the wake of union decline. Much current concern has focused on evaluating the capability of union effectiveness in organising and attempts at realignment through union mergers and amalgamations as a means of promoting union growth in conditions of considerable environmental and political change. Despite national differences, there are a number of common developments in recent attempts to strengthen existing union organisation. These include increasing the affiliation of existing unions into national confeder- ations, the consolidation and concentration of union membership through mergers and amalgamations (Chaison 1996; Nakamura 2001), as well as a commitment to expand membership through union organ- ising campaigns. To date much of the focus for change has centred largely on the experiences of Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US (Bronfrenbrenner 1997), Australia (Turnbull 1997), New Zealand (Oxenbridge 2000), Canada (Taras and Copping 1998) and Britain (Heery et al. 2000a, 2000b; Salmon 1998). These mature labour move- ments all have had the advantage of single unified national confeder- ations able to initiate co-ordinated strategies for renewal when faced with a period of historically exceptional membership losses (Heery 1998; Salmon et al. 2000). This chapter considers the ambitious attempts at union renewal and realignment in Japan where, prior to the formation of Rengo in 1987, a politically and ideologically divided labour movement lacked an agreed basis for national unity. This chapter evaluates Rengo’s approach towards...

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