New Dynamics in Collective Bargaining in the Informal Sector: Impressions from India

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Indira GARTENBERG , Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
New Dynamics in Collective Bargaining in the Informal Sector:  Impressions from India

Indira Gartenberg [1]

Globalisation has led to a numerous critical changes in the lives of the world's working poor. The effects are particularly intense on those engaged in the informal sector in developing countries. Female workers in India’s informal sector have been experiencing a dramatic impact of these processes on their work and lives. Some of these changes have also led to new coping mechanisms and survival strategies. The roles of unionising and collectivisation have therefore changed in the recent years. In many ways, the fragmented nature of the workforce weakens collective strength resulting in rampant violations of their rights. Yet, fragmentation of the workforce leads to new strategies and combinations of forces. This is mainly due to the creative and dynamic responses of those suffering its consequences in developing ways to combat these violations present hope for the local-global labour movement.

My study focuses on the work of a trade union of female workers in Mumbai's informal sector. By way of two cases, one of domestic workers and the other of home-based embellishment workers, I show that organising in the informal sector is in fact possible. More importantly, I point out that while new-age globalisation and traditional conservatism join hands to make the employers and the institutions of the state anti-poor and anti-women, new forms of collective action bringing together different kinds of workers (engaged in various trades and from diverse backgrounds), are creating a space for making space for a dialogue between the poor and with these local and global institutions directly for demanding their rights.

[1] Indira Gartenberg is a PhD scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. She is also organising secretary of her Maharashtra-based trade union LEARN Mahila Kamgar Sanghatana. Email: reva18@gmail.com