Trade union challenges in the informal economy. A call for global trade union cooperation

Executive summary

The CGSLB has made the informal economy the central focus of its cooperation programmes in Africa. There is increasing interest in the informal economy. It is gradually moving up the national, regional and international agendas. It has brought major socio-economic and trade union issues into focus, particularly in the developing countries where it concerns the majority of workers. It shapes policies and decisions. Sometimes workers organisations are involved in this. Sometimes these decisions are taken without any real consultation in the field and their impact is therefore limited.

Providing a trade union framework for informal economy workers is a challenge for every continent: it enables precarious and informal economy workers to have access to the trade unions, to be represented by them, supported and defended. Today there are more workers in the informal economy that need this trade union support than anywhere else, because they have the least training and are the least aware of their fundamental rights at work. They have the greatest need to be defended, because they are not protected. They have the greatest need to be represented, because they are not recognised and above all not listened to. The CGSLB is convinced. Its leaders made their decision and turned it into a development cooperation policy, put to the test through projects and programmes. The CGSLB has been organising informal sector workers since 2003 as a vehicle for structural change in trade union organisations in the least developed countries, seeking to provide support for workers and their many occupational groups in the informal economy.

This contribution is aimed first and foremost at shedding light on and better understanding the decisions and actions that show that the informal economy and its workers count, and at showing why they matter from a trade union development point of view. It is a matter of going through the different standard setting (ILO Domestic Workers Convention) or political processes (ITUC resolutions and policy commitments) to show that these are steps towards taking the interests of informal economy workers into account. Next is the stage of mapping trade union action that can be used to support informal economy workers, to clarify the key issues and the outlook for cooperation. It is a plan drawn up on the basis of the CGSLB’s experience in the field with its partners. This field-based work is an opportunity for capacity building based on a change of approach, autonomy and representativeness through the integration of informal economy works. Finally, the CGSLB’s brief contribution is aimed at highlighting the potential in bringing together , at regular intervals, the trade union partners involved in organising informal economy workers, going beyond the political and standard setting discussions on the international labour agenda. As a global trade union player, the ITUC can bring all the members of its family active in cooperation to work together on a trade union platform of support and policy guidelines for workers in the informal economy.

Little by little this plan can be turned into a cooperation policy instrument for trade union work in the field that can foster contributory and innovative changes that will reach up t o the international level.

Read the full article (in French):

CGSLB - Economie informelle

For further information: [email protected] / [email protected]