Quebec’s CISO partners up with local unions to target informal sector in Burkina Faso

In 2014, members of Quebec’s International Workers’ Solidarity Centre (Centre international de solidarité ouvrière - CISO) decided to fund a project to support workers in the informal economy in Burkina Faso for a period of two years. The project is the result of a collaboration between, in Quebec, the CISO and, in Burkina Faso, the Trade Union Action Unit (Unité d’action syndicale - UAS), two independent teachers’ trade unions and the local coordination group for the World March of Women.

By Amélie Nguyen - Coordinator at CISO - @CISO_Qc

The informal economy

The informal economy, outside of state control, is characterised by extremely low wages, unlimited working hours, a lack of social welfare (e.g. pension, health insurance, maternity leave), poor health and safety conditions at work and great financial and psychological insecurity. The poorest and most vulnerable members of society are trapped in this type of work. The structural adjustment measures that the major international financial institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) imposed on the Burkinabe state in the 80s and 90s multiplied the number of people employed in the informal economy, pushing qualified workers from the public sector to precarious and informal employment, and weakening Burkina Faso’s trade union movement at the same time. Today, this ’economy of resourcefulness’, a result of the resilience of people marginalised by global capitalism, accounts for more than 80% of Burkina Faso’s workforce, many of them with low literacy skills and 74% of whom are women.

The project

In December 2016, members of the CISO went to Burkina Faso for the launch of the project Coordination Intersectorielle Burkinabè pour L’Emploi – CIBLE travail décent (Burkinabe Intersectoral Coordination for Employment – TARGET decent work). It will run for the next three years thanks to the financial support of the Quebec Ministry of International Relations and La Francophonie (MRIF). Officially launched in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, this project is to some extent the second stage of the Projet d’appui au secteur de l’économie informelle (Support for the informal economy sector project) undertaken by the CISO in 2014. It aims to promote and acknowledge the demands of workers in the informal economy by arranging dialogue between the government and trade unions, helping these workers to get organised and providing training courses on decent work and technical courses related to their profession. The project also intends to break workers’ isolation. The target group consists of 60% women, as well as young people in the informal economy.

An innovative partnership

The innovative partnership between the World March of Women and the trade unions seems particularly beneficial for gender equality. The crossovers between these organisational cultures and different missions are helping the women’s groups and trade unions learn from each other, which will influence their collective action at the end of the three-year collaboration. We hope that this solidarity between workers in Quebec and Burkina Faso continues and grows over the coming years through the wealth of exchanges and mutual learning opportunities ; despite being on different sides of the planet, our fights have a lot more in common than you might think.

More information is available here (in French).