Union Agreements Informally

Most of the time, negotiations take place at ad hoc meetings – often after a crisis – or in advisory forums without legal obligation from the authorities and without binding agreements or continuity. While dialogues, consultations or meetings on direct dispute resolution have a role to play in giving informal workers the opportunity to make their voices heard and make a profit, it is easy to ignore or undermine the agreements reached. Read WIEGO Working Paper #38:Collective Bargaining by Informal Workers in the Global South: Where and How It Takes Place (2018) by Francoise CarrĂ©, Pat Horn and Chris Bonner Workers in the informal economy, including workers on their own initiative, also conduct forms of collective bargaining with their affiliates (MBOS). However, their colleagues around the table are often not employers. Street vendors most often negotiate with local authorities, for example, and with various municipal services on issues such as harassment and seizure of goods with the police. Waste collectors negotiate with local authorities for storage and sorting facilities or, even more ambitiously, the right to provide collection and recycling services for which they are paid. Many have to negotiate with buyers to improve the prices of valuable materials. However, as the following case studies show, informal workers are increasingly at the negotiating table: in national and local governments – or, in the case of domestic workers, in forums with employers. Informal workers also find a voice in international negotiating forums, particularly at the ILO`s annual International Labour Conference. Collective bargaining is generally considered to be between the employer and employees in order to reach a collective agreement, primarily on wages and working conditions. (See the definition of the International Labour Organization for Collective Bargaining: C154: Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 [No. 154]).

Unlike workers in the formal economy, whose rights are generally defined by labour laws, most informal workers do not have conventional rights. Although the law has been recognized by the ILO (see resolution and conclusions on decent work in the informal economy, ILC, 90th session, 2002), including for workers of their own, it has generally not been extended to these workers.