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Workshops to tackle challenge of taxi workers and street vendors

18th November 2003

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Two pioneering trade union workshops will be conducted in Johannesburg this week that will focus on organising taxi workers and street traders, and are convened by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in partnership with the South African Taxi Workers’ Union (Satawu) and StreetNet International respectively.

The workshops form part of a project of the ILO aimed at promoting organisation among workers and operators in the informal economy. The ILO project is aimed at progressively bringing marginalised workers and economic units into the mainstream economy by promoting dialogue and negotiation between stakeholders, with the countries under review being Bolivia, Colombia, Pakistan, Peru and South Africa.

The South African leg of the project has involved the researching and publication of four papers on organising strategies of informal economy workers and operators in different sectors, including street trading, construction, home work in the garment industry, and the taxi sector.

The research was coordinated locally by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (Case) in cooperation with the Southern African Labour Research Institute (Salri).

Next week’s two workshops are designed to feed back the research findings to taxi workers organised by Satawu and street traders organised by different street traders organisations which have been working with StreetNet International.

The workshops are also focusing on strategies for organising workers and winning recognition from the relevant employers and authorities.

The taxi industry workshop started on November 17, and will run until tomorrow, while the street vendors’ workshop will take place on today.

The street vendors’ workshop is to be followed by a policy dialogue between street vendors’ organisations and representatives of local government on tomorrow.

The workshops are taking place in a context where the informal economy is growing rapidly, with workers by and large engaged in poor-quality, unproductive and unprotected jobs.

This rapid growth of the informal economy is particularly marked in Africa where globalisation and structural adjustment are eroding formal employment and the basis upon which the collective protection of workers was built in the past.

It is estimated that there are 180 000 taxi workers and about half a million street traders in South Africa.

More than 70% of all street traders in the country sell food and more than 70% of the traders are women.
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