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Informal workers winning in Africa, Asia and Latin America

02 Aug 2016
ITF unions have celebrated the ‘impressive’ results of a three-year project to support the organisation of informal transport workers – including a large rise in trade union membership, the signing of collective agreements, greater visibility of women workers and the formation of new unions.

The ITF project, funded by the FNV union in the Netherlands, was led by mentor unions in East and West Africa, South and South-East Asia and Latin America, who shared their organising experiences and skills. These mentors and the unions they supported came together in Kampala, Uganda from 26-28 July to evaluate the project.

All participating unions reported that their understanding of informal workers and the need to organise them had been transformed. This comment from Aziz Kiirya, ATGWU, Uganda, was typical: “Earlier we thought they were not workers. Now we understand their challenges and have organised them. This has made us stronger as a union.”

A key project objective was to increase the visibility of women. Angelica from the NCTU in the Philippines said: “There are women who work, but we never heard their voice. Through the project, their confidence has increased. It was very hard to organise them. I went to their homes and spoke to them one to one without their husbands.”

The project also resulted in trade unions developing new constitutions and organisational policies, and in agreements between unions and informal transport workers’ associations. In Nepal, the E-Rickshaw union was formed.

Another outcome of the project was development of an informal workers’ charter to be used as an organising and campaigning tool. It's available to download in English, French, Spanish and Nepalese. 

Participants also discussed violence against women and the introduction of bus rapid transit (BRT) in many cities.

ITF education officer Alana Dave congratulated the unions and commented that the challenge was now for the federation to embed informal workers’ issues in all its industrial programmes and campaigns, and use the informal workers’ charter developed in the project as an organising and campaigning tool.

The project has transformed the ATGWU. It now represents minibus workers, motorcycle taxi riders, informal truck drivers, cargo handlers and others and its membership has increased from 6,000 to over 90,000.

Find out more at the informal workers’ blog

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