Workshop on Methods of Organizing Informal Economy Workers in Nepal

Informal economy is growing in Nepal especially due to the fact the formal sector is either stagnant or deteriorating by recent political change. The largest sector of informal economy in Nepal is agriculture with traditional employment relationship with so called feudal system. There are other sectors growing in urban areas particularly on home based activities ranging from domestic house works to ancillary activities for some big export items like woollen carpets, garments, mbroidery ande handicrafts. Construction is another sector of steady growth in big cities like Kathmandu and Biratnagar where most of the work takes place in informal employment relationship.

Context

Informal Economy is growing in Nepal especially due to the fact the formal sector is either stagnant or deteriorating by recent political change. The largest sector of informal economy in Nepal is Agriculture with traditional employment relationship with so called feudal system. There are other sectors growing in urban areas particularly on home based activities ranging from domestic house works to ancillary activities for some big export items like woollen carpets, garments, embroidery and handicrafts. Construction is another sector of steady growth in big cities like Kathmandu and Biratnagar where most of the work takes place in informal employment relationship.

The workers have poor bargaining power due to the lack of organization or unionisation in all these sectors. They have long working hours, meagre pay and rampant use of child labourers where majority of workforce is that of women.

Some major trade unions have already begun their organizing activities with a view to develop stronger unions and membership base in the sectors like agriculture, home based work and commercial shops. However, much has to be done for enrolling membership and strengthening their capacity to bargain with the employers.

The idea of organizing this activity is for developing the capacity of major trade unions for organizing workers in the above sectors and raise their collective voice for better working conditions. This activity thus will directly support for FOA and Collective Bargaining component of ILO/ACTRAV Project.

Participants

The participants of this training were invited from major trade union national centres of Nepal which were the members of the network of trade unions called Joint Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (JTUCC). There were 23 participants (11 male and 12 female). Out of them 13 were attending ILO programs for the first time. The sectors represented were – agriculture, beautician, barber, government employee, rikshaw pullers, carpet, construction, and transportation. The complete list can be found in the related information section of this page.

Objectives

The specific objectives of the three day workshop were to make the participants able to:

  • understand the Informal Economy, its importance in terms of organizing workers
  • develop strategies, activities and methods for organizing workers in informal sectors like home-based workers, agriculture workers, street vendors and other various sectors in Nepal

Structure and content

The following contents were dwelt during the three day training workshop:

  • Understanding informal economy, its characteristics and importance for trade unions
  • ILO Conventions protecting rights of informal economy workers
  • Strategies and methods for organizing informal economy workers
  • Building solidarity with international trade union organizations
  • Trade unions actions for organizing informal economy workers in Nepal

Detail contents are mentioned in the Programme Schedule attached in ANNEX-B.

Resources persons and methodology

The workshop was inaugurated by Mr Shengjie Li, Director of ILO/Nepal with his inaugural speech who highlighted on the needs of organizing informal economy workers for improving their working conditions.

Training sessions for three days were facilitated by Mr Ariel Castro, Senior Specialist of Worker's Activities from ILO/SRO New Delhi and Mr Narayan P. Bhattarai, National Project Co-ordinator of ILO/ACTRAV Norway Project in Nepal. The sessions were designed based on the ILO/ACTRAV Manual on Organizing Informal Economy Workers. Mr Rajkumar Bhatta offered the administrative support for the workshop for three days.

Participatory training method was used with various teaching aids like – Multi-media (PP Presentations), Flip-charts and Metacards. Question-answers, Group works and plenary were organized after each of the sessions.

Achievements of the workshop

Outcome 1: 23 participants trained on methods of organizing informal economy workers in Nepal

Outcome 2: Prepared action plan for follow-up activities.

In the last day, the participants were asked to identify activities for their target groups as action plan preparation exercise. This exercise has given an opportunity for the facilitators to understand how far the objectives were attained on the one hand and what sort of follow-up activities may be necessary to keep up the group active in organizing workers in informal economy on the other. The following activities were identified by the group representing their own organizations:

  • All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF): The participants from All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) have proposed a plan of action targeting the Rikshaw Pullers in Kathmandu. The activities include – Campaigns for membership, Trade union education, Local committee formation and Registration of union - to be organized in 5 months with a total budget of NRs 95,000. They have expected the resources from ILO.
  • Confederation of Nepalese Professionals (CONEP): The participants from Confederation of Nepalese Professionals (CONEP) have proposed to register a union of ex-government employees who are retired from their job. They have proposed to take the stock of all ex-employees of government and mobilize them for union activities by forming a union. The total budget proposed is NRS. 310,000 for a period of 6 months out of which NRs. 125,000 is expected from ILO.
  • Federation of Progressive Trade Unions in Nepal (FENEPT): The participants from Federation of Progressive Trade Unions in Nepal (FENEPT) have proposed to organize the workers in Construction sector. They have proposed to offer services like – Child Care Centres and Adult Literacy Classes for Women workers in construction sector in Nepal. They have proposed a budget of NRs. 34,000.
  • General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT): The participants from General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) have proposed to organize agriculture workers in selected districts – Sarlahi, Makwanpur, Kailali and Kanchanpur. They have expressed their commitment to implement the Mini-action program with ILO/ACTRAV Norway project that is being implemented by GEFONT.
  • National Democratic Confederation of Trade Unions – Independent (NDCONT-I): The participants from National Democratic Confederation of Trade Unions – Independent (NDCONT-I) have proposed to organize the carpet workers through trade union education programs. The proposed budget for six month's activities is NRs. 144,000 of which 40% is expected from ILO and rest to be generated by the national centre itself.
  • Nepal Trade Union Congress – Independent (NTUC-I): The participants from Nepal Trade Union Congress – Independent (NTUC0-I) have proposed to organize barbers and beauticians in selected districts – Sihaha, Saptari, Sunsari & Morang. The proposed activities include Skill Training, Trade union education and Membership Campaign with a total budget of NRs. 1440,000 for a period of six months (January-June) in 2010 of which 25% to be borne jointly by Beautician Union and Barber Union.
  • Nepal Trade Union Federation (NTUF): The participants from Nepal Trade Union Federation (NTUF) have proposed to organize street vendors and self-employed workers in Kathmandu valley. The activities proposed are like – Local meetings, committee formations, Membership enrolment, Basic trade union education and Union registration in the period of next seven months. The total budget proposed is NRs. 65,000 out of which NRs. 25,000 is expected from ILO and rest to be raised locally.