RENGO Statements and Views

Statement on the Approval and Enactment of Bills to Strengthen the Laws for Conclusion of ILO Convention No. 105

09 June 2021

1. I appreciate the significant progress made toward ratification of the Convention and express my respect for the efforts of the parties concerned

The Bill on the Strengthening of Related Laws for the Conclusion of the Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labor (No. 105) (hereafter, "the Bill") was approved and enacted at the Plenary Session of the Upper House of the Japanese Diet on June 9th. This bill was submitted as a lawmaker-sponsored bill by members of both the ruling and opposition parties centering on the Parliamentarians' Union for Promoting ILO Activities. I would like to express my sincere respect to all those involved in the process leading up to the enactment of the bill. ILO Convention No. 105 is one of the Eight Core Labor Standards Conventions, adopted in 1957, that all ILO member States are required to ratify and has thus far been ratified by 176 of the 187 member states. However, despite being a founding member of the ILO, Japan has for many years had the dishonor of not ratifying the Convention. We therefore highly evaluate the enactment of the Bill as a major step toward ratification of the Convention.

2. While there are still issues remaining regarding punishments, I understand the will of the legislature for early ratification

Under the bill, prison sentences with forced labor, stipulated as sanctions, and which are interpreted as forced labor prohibited under the Convention, have been amended to imprisonment without forced labor for (1) certain political acts by national public servants, (2) labor discipline violations by those engaged in certain duties, and (3) incitement to strike action by public servants. Although there are still issues such as the nature of punishments in the legal system for civil servants and the fact that the punishment of imprisonment with forced labor for violations of labor discipline in some essential tasks will remain, I accept this as the will of legislative body’s intention to realize ratification of the Convention as soon as possible.

3. Enhancing awareness of respect for and protection of human rights both in Japan and abroad has contributed to the development of an atmosphere conducive to enactment of the Bill

With the adoption, for example, of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011, awareness of respect for and protection of human rights is growing rapidly both in Japan and abroad. Against this backdrop, reference to the core labor standards has taken root in international trade and investment agreements, including the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, and Japan has also formulated an Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. With voices also being raised, for example, by the business community pointing out the importance of the ratification of the core labor standards in business development, changes in the domestic and international environment have brought about an atmosphere which has led to the enactment of the Bill.

4. Ratification of ILO Convention No. 111 should also be achieved at an early date

Based on the fact that the “Resolution for the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the ILO,” adopted in both the Lower and Upper House of the Japanese Diet in June 2019, included “continued efforts toward the ratification of basic Conventions,” RENGO established an “ILO Core Convention Ratification Promotion Team” in its headquarters and has been making efforts both in Japan and overseas, including lobbying Diet members. To ensure that Japan is a country that will not tolerate discrimination and disregard for human rights, we will, in particular, continue to strengthen our efforts toward early ratification of ILO Convention No. 111 (Discrimination (Employment and Occupation)), the sole convention of the Eight Core Labor Standards Conventions that is yet to be ratified.

Yasunobu AIHARA
General Secretary
Japanese Trade Union Confederation