Chapter 11: Collective bargaining by informal workers in the global South: where and how it takes place
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This chapter addresses two sets of related questions. It considers what collective negotiation (“bargaining”) looks like and what it means for informal worker organisations and their members. The chapter focuses on informal workers who are categorised mainly as “self-employed” for legal purposes. While much research has concentrated on informal worker organising, far less is known about the kinds of bargaining in which the resulting organisations engage. We address how informal workers access opportunities to bargain with entities that have some power over the conditions of their work. We also explore some of the ways in which negotiation is combined with other approaches and why this occurs in the case of informal workers. The chapter draws on internal documents from the global research and policy network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) that monitor collective negotiations underway and some published cases. It relies on material from a monitoring of collective negotiations by street vendor organisations, which has been ongoing since 2013 and which co-author Horn conducts through remote interviews and some face-to-face meetings with 32 organisations, combined with selected cases of negotiations by home-based and street vendor worker organisations in several countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The two worker groups—street vendors and home-based workers—provide a contrast in work setting and gender composition. Street vendors operate in the public space and are a mixed-gender group, whereas home-based workers are most often women and work in private space. The chapter examines what self-employed informal workers and their organisations want from negotiation, and how their situation differs from that of formal workers. We develop a typology of negotiations in which informal worker organisations engage and provide country examples for these types of platforms based on case studies as well as the review of street vendor negotiations. A later section discusses how and why informal worker organisations engage in global venues for purposes of negotiation. The conclusion provides reflections and points to directions for future research.

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