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Mentor unions intensify organising informal workers

06 Mar 2015
Women tempo drivers in Kathmandu
Mentor unions from five countries met in Kathmandu, Nepal on 25-27 February to agree the final phase of a major project to organise informal transport workers and boost the visibility of women in informal work.

The informal workers project is run by the ITF in partnership with the Global Labour Institute and FNV Mondiaal in the Netherlands. At the event, which was hosted by ITF affiliates ITWAN and NETWON, unions from Nepal, the Philippines, Colombia, Niger and Uganda agreed to concentrate on working intensively on a day-to-day mentoring process with one or two unions in their regions where there was clear potential and capacity, rather than through bringing several unions together at large training events. They committed to share experiences of union organising in the sector to build knowledge, skills and solidarity, and agreed to develop policy proposals based on union experiences of modernising public transport, improving livelihoods and promoting women’s employment.

The main problems facing informal workers – including the lack of social security, very long hours, no legal protection and police harassment – make organising very challenging. A participant from Nepal described how her union worked with the police to help girls being trafficked and was lobbying the government to provide loans to women so that they could buy and drive their own four-wheel microbuses, as employers discriminated against them.

Alana Dave, ITF education officer, said: “Informal or precarious transport workers are among the most vulnerable workers and the vast majority of them are not organised. Our project aims to help unions reach out to them more effectively and concentrate their bargaining efforts on those who wield the power, such as bus terminal owners, truck companies and local government.

“We’ve already taken big steps in the first year, with some unions affiliating informal associations, boosting the role of women and increasing union membership. Now we’re focusing our resources on intensive work with a small number of unions to strengthen their organising.”

Read more about the ITF’s work on precarious workers  and the informal workers blog.

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