Organising experiences and experiments among Indian Trade Unions: Concepts, Processes and Showcases
Training Material, Guides, Organizing/Educational Materials
In India, the expansion of the informal economy has been attributed to the decline of the unionisation rate and the weakening of collective bargaining power. With more than 92 per cent of all workers engaged in informal employment where labour rights are rather repressive, what is the guiding principle for trade unions and the ILO that can provide decent employment, legal protection and adequate social security to India’s informal workers? ‘Organising’, which refers to a method of recruiting new union members and making them more conscious of their rights through awareness-raising, education, advocacy, vocational training, campaigning and networking, is perceived as an entry point for increasing collective voice and representation of informal workers, and for empowering them to fight for social justice. It also intends to strengthen the organisational capacity of trade unions and to increase their bargaining power.
This paper, which illustrates the experience of Indian trade unions’ organising over decades, aims to motivate both trade unions and the ILO to reach out to informal workers, and to promote and realise the goal of decent work in the informal economy. It proposes replicable organising processes—planning, tactics, steps and an incubating period. Organising methods and strategies vary from workplace to workplace, from industry to industry, and from union to union. Different unions have experienced and experimented with various organising practices. This paper recommends several organising showcases as replicable models, which include cooperatives, study circles, SHGs, welfare support, hieratical network approaches, friendship houses, skills development, IT training, and social mobilising. Overall, this paper offers itself as guidance for union leaders, educators and academics who have an interest in institutionalising informal workers and realising decent work in the informal economy.