Training Workshop on Organising from the Bottom up

By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Organiser

On the 23-25 and 28-30 March 2016, StreetNet International and the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), jointly ran a training workshop on organising from the bottom up for syndicates of workers in the informal economy in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City respectively. The workshop fell within the framework of a project with Oxfam, Belgium.

The 40 participants who attended the two workshops were syndicate organisers and leaders. They came from different provinces of Vietnam to learn how to organise informal workers and establish negotiating forums, as well as to share their experience on work in the different sectors of the informal economy.

StreetNet International Coordinator, Pat Horn and StreetNet Organiser for Asia and Europe, Oksana Abboud, facilitated the training course.

The main aims of the workshops were:

  • To help syndicates to learn how to involve workers and members in strategies of organising from the bottom up;
  • To learn participatory negotiations skills;
  • To understand all the steps of collective negotiations processes;
  • To develop action guidelines which can be used by organisers as a guide to methods of organising from the bottom up.

The Hanoi workshop was opened by Dang Trung Dung, the deputy-director of the VGCL International Department. In his welcoming speech Brother Dung stressed that the informal sector should be recognised and properly defended at the national level. For this purpose a special policy needs to be developed and adopted, he said. Trade unions should organise both formal and informal workers and with the support of StreetNet and the VGCL, develop an Action Plan in this regard.

The VGCL set its membership development goals which aim to organise workers into unions comprising up to 10 million members in all, by the end of 2016.

The participants of both the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City workshops, mainly VGCL organisers from different provinces, represented different sectors of the informal economy, namely: fishermen, teachers of private kindergarten schools, migrants, Seon (tricycle) drivers, market vendors, porters and waste pickers.

OXFAM and Research Center for Gender, Family and Community Development (GFCD) representatives also attended the workshop.

On the first day of the workshop, Pat Horn focused attention on the formalisation issue, introducing the recently adopted ILO Recommendation 204. Participants were tasked with identifying clauses of this ILO Recommendation, that are the most important and helpful for the protection of informal workers.

On the second day, participants had to think about a range of collective negotiations, identify different levels of negotiations, identify the differences between bilateral and multi-lateral negotiations as well as learn how to use a logframe as a planning tool.

The next activity was aimed at developing an understanding of negotiating counterparts, what to expect when approaching them and to develop an ability to anticipate obstacles and strategies to overcome them.

In their next task, participants were expected to develop ideas as to how to organise negotiations internally; identify capacity constraints while negotiating as well as to understand all the steps which make up a good negotiations process.

On the last workshop day, all trainees worked on identifying five things which are the most important for establishing a new negotiations forum; discussing obstacles which may confront them while establishing a new forum and ways of overcoming these obstacles.

The last session was devoted to developing action guidelines for methods of organising from the bottom up.

It should be noted that all participants of the two workshops succeeded in their tasks and acquired new skills and knowledge regarding the organising of informal workers and establishing negotiations forums in the informal sector.

The Cambodian participants from Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Associations (IDEA), a StreetNet affiliate, attended the second training workshop in Ho Chi Minh City, and added value to it by sharing their experience with their Vietnamese colleagues.

In conclusion, it can be confidently said that all the trainees now understand bottom up organising and are ready to implement their knowledge and skills in practice.