Transforming Unions through Organising Informal Workers in Uganda

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Dave SPOONER, Global Labour Institute, United Kingdom
John Mark MWANIKA, Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union, Uganda
Dave Spooner and John Mark Mwanika: Transforming Unions through organising Informal Workers in Uganda

This paper analyses the power resources of informal transport workers in Uganda, and the transformation processes of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (ATGWU) and their newly affiliated informal workers’ associations in organising informal workers. We examine the process of organisation; how strategic choices were made; how the expected increases in power resources were realised; and the results. We also analyse the critical factors behind the success of the strategy, as well as lessons learned and unresolved challenges involved. ATGWU faced an almost complete collapse in membership following the impact of Structural Adjustment Programmes in the 1980s, and the subsequent informalisation of the transport industry. In recent years, ATGWU pioneered a strategy of organising through the affiliation of mass-membership associations of informal workers, notably representing minibus taxi workers and motorcycle taxi (‘Boda-Boda’) riders.The unionisation of informal workers has had a dramatic impact such as; a reduction in police harassment, substantial gains through collective bargaining, reduced internal conflict within the associations, and improvement of visibility and status for informal women transport workers. The rapid expansion has raised new challenges for the union, particularly in the transition to a fully integrated formal-informal organisation, the need for reform of democratic process and accountability, and the maintenance of informal-formal workers’ solidarity.