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Commentary: Asia's unions should strengthen organising initiatives among informal workers

Author: Michele Ford, Open Democracy, Published on: 27 October 2019

"Informal workers: an untapped asset for Asia's unions," 22 October 2019

In the Global North, changes in the organisation of work and employer strategy have rendered existing unions less powerful and put unionism out of reach for large groups of workers. In Asia, the situation is even more complex. Many Asian countries have large informal sectors, unregulated by labour law and unrepresented in the formal industrial relations system...

In many cases, Asia’s unions have ignored these precarious workers...

There are many kinds of organising initiatives that involve precarious workers, from tiny community collectives, to associations of app-based transport workers, to India’s famous Self Employed Women’s Association, which brings together home-based workers, small-scale vendors, daily labourers and service providers...

Non-union worker associations often focus on practical measures like improving the economic position of their members by establishing cooperatives or providing support when their members get into some kind of trouble. Their strength lies in their responsiveness to the needs of workers that sit outside the constituencies of mainstream unions...

...If they are purely self-supporting it is difficult for them to scale up, or sometimes even sustain, their activities. Where they are more formalised, they tend to rely on external support from NGOs or the international labour movement...

...[N]on-union worker organisations operate outside the formal industrial relations system. Registered unions...have the right to bargain collectively on behalf of their members... Other kinds of organisations do not have these rights. As a consequence, they have to rely primarily on campaigning or mass mobilisation to promote structural change in the world of work.

One way to overcome this limitation is to find ways to incorporate grassroots organising initiatives into the union movement...

 

Read the full post here