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Activists from eight ITF unions met at the workshop

Unions make plans for BRT in Africa

ITF unions from across Africa have planned how they will take action to deal with the risks and opportunities for workers posed by Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

BRT is spreading rapidly across the continent as authorities see it as cheap alternative to light rail for providing accessible, affordable public transport. BRT uses dedicated lanes and other technical and organisational improvements to enhance existing city transportation systems.

Developing union strategies in target cities where BRT is planned or operational is part of the ITF’s Our public transport priority programme.

At the workshop in Addis Ababa, 26-27 September, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) reported that it had negotiated jobs in BRT for affected minibus taxi drivers. In Nigeria, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) was part of negotiations that formed a cooperative of taxi owners who operate the BRT routes.

However, in Tanzania BRT has seen dala dala (minibus) drivers and motorcycles taxi riders lose their jobs, with worse conditions for the remaining informal transport workers.

The 15 participants from six countries suggested that for BRT to benefit workers, unions must:

  • have access to information about BRT in their countries at a very early stage.
  • demand to be part of the planning or consultation process , and influence key decision makers.
  • call for a just transition from informal to formal employment, such as compensation to informal transport workers affected by compulsory phase-outs.
  • have organising campaigns ready for when BRT is up and running.
  • propose alternatives to BRT

Alana Dave, Our public transport programme leader at the ITF, said: “We will be supporting our brothers and sisters in Africa to build union power in response to BRT. We will work in a target city, and develop a strategy at an early stage.

"All the unions attending the workshop will assist by building solidarity and sharing their knowledge and experiences. Governments are learning from each other, and many have visited Bogota in Colombia to see the BRT system there. ITF affiliates can also learn from each other about how to intervene effectively and develop alternatives.”

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