|I would like to talk today about the history of worker cooperatives in Japan including the development of worker cooperative standards. I also would like to say a word about the Oslo 2003 declaration.
Introduction: Our Consciousness of Problems in Dealing with Workersf Cooperative Union Activities
Japanese capitalism had already reached the limits of gmass production/mass
consumption/mass disposal-typeh industries in the 1970s, becoming increasingly
dependent on exports to overseas markets and public finances. Although
an abnormal boom was experienced due to bubble-like speculation in the
1980s, the economic bubble burst following the start of the 1990s, and
the phase of long-term stagnation began, with no new direction for industrial
development in sight. When people who have given up hope for employment
are added in, about 10 million people in Japan have either become or are
about to become unemployed as a result of this stagnation.
We regard the present circumstances to be a catastrophic result of global
capitalism, (incidentally, the Japanese Government, which has single-mindedly
pursued globalization, supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq). But we also
see it as a period of transfer toward a gstationary economy,h one in
which human beings and the environment will be respected, and people should
be able to enjoy true wealth.
As such, working jointly with many working people and other citizens, we
hope to develop worker cooperatives and to bring about the humanitarian
resurrection of labor, enterprises, the industrial structure, the economy
and wider social life.
1. Business and Activities of Japan Worker Cooperatives
1) A variety of persons who shoulder management of worker cooperatives
2. Practice of gAssociated Workh and Heightening of Social Recognition
Japanfs worker cooperative activities were started as JIGYODAN (business
undertaking groups) for securing the employment of workers in certain areas
in the 1970s, and throughout the nation in the 1980s. By 1990, participants
had established themselves as gworker cooperatives.h
2) gCommunity Welfare Centerh: Community Care and gCommunity Businessh
Since 1995 Japanese workersf cooperatives have held, in conjunction with
Older Personsf Cooperative Unions, courses on care work at 400 places
across the nation, fostering a total of 40,000 care workers. Out of these
40,000 people, 4,000 have started to organize gCommunity Welfare Centers,h
and currently 200 such enterprises are in existence.
Expanding these establishments to junior high school areas throughout the nation (totaling some 10,000 areas) is the central business strategy of the Japan Workersf Cooperative Union in the years ahead.
The gCommunity Welfare Centersh are designed to engage in the following
three kinds of activities:
\\ First of all, there are activities corresponding to gLong-Term Care Insuranceh programs, such as home care, day care, rental of welfare articles, etc. The Japanese government has provided for Long Term Care Insurance programs since 2000.
\\ Second, working in connection with policies of local governments and mutual aid organizations within the Older Personsf Co-operative Unions, these activities will be expanded to a range of gCommunity Careh services. That includes catering, gmini-day service,h health care, etc. The range of care will also be diversified to care for handicapped people and for children.
\\ Third, various kinds of gcommunity businessesh will be developed in local areas, and the Community Welfare Centers will serve as their focal points. These businesses will include house cleaning, gardening, residence repair/housing consultation, collective housing, distribution of care/living articles, transport service/care taxis, cultural events, and the like.
1) Establishment of gassociated workh and management through gCommunity Careh and gCommunity Businessh
3 Legislation of Worker Cooperatives
Efforts for gCommunity Careh and gCommunity Businessh based on gCommunity
Welfare Centersh have brought about the following new efforts in the worker
* Centered on women, the development of self-initiative based work and management have begun. These efforts are designed to jointly amass funds, to open offices, to organize users to put management on a stabilized track, to study actual methods for the gcare to make users livelyh as a team, to expand such activities to gmini-day servicesh, and to continue to use the fruits of their work and business achievements for the establishment of other gCommunity Welfare Centers," while leaving some surplus in funds.
A new image of care, based on the participation and collaboration of users
and local people, has been created. Furthermore, cases of usersf and local
peoplef cooperation with management through capital contribution, volunteer
activities, and supply of facilities have increased.
Through the expansion of such practices, we have re-shaped the concept
of gassociated workh in the social cooperative relationship. Namely,
we have reached the conclusion that cooperative work: (1) starts when workers
make their own capital contribution, share managerial responsibility, and
begin work that is useful to the people and the local community; (2) promotes
the participation of users in, and collaboration with, work creation, thereby
developing cooperative relations among users; and (3) expands cooperation
among people in the entire area, involving three layers of cooperation:
cooperation among working people, cooperation with users, and cooperation
in the community.
2) New partnership with local government under the gproposal method.h
In entrusting work to the private sector, local governments are increasingly
adopting the proposal formula. In this formula, government partnership
decisions are made by a consideration of the content of the plan and philosophy
of the enterprise concerned, in addition to considering prices in competitive
bidding. Under such a situation, worker cooperatives are receiving a growing
number of orders. This development is particularly prominent in the area
of regeneration of communities based on the axis of welfare and self-support
by people of all generations and of job creation in the community.
3) New direction of the gemployment creationh policy inaugurated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced the gFirst Report
of the Employment Creation Planning Conferenceh in May of this year, which
described the following work-creation outlook and direction:
The sectors expected to create employment in the future are the gCommunity Businesses,h which refers to small-scale businesses created mainly by local residents in response to local needs, such as welfare, care, education, culture and environmental protection.
The actors of gCommunity Businessh are assumed to be gNPOs, worker co-operatives and community-based corporations.
Because there are no worker cooperative laws in Japan, the Japan Workersf
Cooperative Union has been lobbying for appropriate legislation.
Under the proposed bill by the Japan Workersf Cooperative Union, requirements
for worker coops would be as follows:
(1) A cooperative shall be designed gfor working people and citizens to create work useful to both the people and the community, and to expand the workplace, based on their own initiatives.h (Purpose requirement)
Thus, worker cooperatives are a historical movement that changes labour
into an autonomous social force that re-integrates ownership, management
and work through workersf initiative, and extends cooperative relations
among workers, users and other citizens.
(2) A cooperative shall make capital contribution, labor and management a gtriumvirateh matter. Persons who have the desire and ability to work should establish a cooperative by making a capital contribution, and not only engage in work at the cooperative thus founded, but also jointly implement the management and operation of the cooperative. With regard to the distribution of the surplus and the transfer of the surplus to provisions, etc., they must also arrange for decisions at a general meeting of cooperative members. (Organizational requirement)
(3) Cooperative members shall be made up mainly of workers actively engaged in work. In addition, to enable the cooperative to start the work required in the area concerned, it shall be possible for citizens supporting the business purpose and for capital contributors, including local governing bodies, to become members of the cooperative. (Cooperative member requirements)
(4) In order to contribute toward the expansion of working opportunities, education and training, and mutual aid and community well-being, the cooperative shall accumulate an indivisible reserve and a not-for-profit cooperative fund using part of the surplus, and manage and operate the fund. (Social requirement)
Lastly, I would like to say a word about adopting the Oslo Declaration
2003. We cannot agree to adopt the Oslo Declaration at this conference
for the following reasons:
1. There is not enough time for us to discuss these documents right now.
Finally, I am sure other cooperatives in Japan?such as consumer and agriculture
co-ops?do not agree right now that their workers should become worker-members.
I think we should not condemn their policies. Rather, we should maintain
our relationships with them for the purpose of expanding and making a stronger
2. In the Declaration, we should focus more on how we really contribute to job creation and community development.
3. We do not all yet agree with the concept of cooperative employee ownership, so we need more time to discuss this issue.
4. In the near future, CICOPA needs to be more concerned about social cooperatives, participative enterprises, etc. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to these kinds of movements for developing workersf cooperatives.
In conclusion, I think that it is too early to adopt the Declaration at
this moment. We should have more time to discuss it and aim for wider agreement
at the next CICOPA executive committee. If we take the time to do this,
I believe that we shall end up in agreement with a truly historical Declaration.