El Salvador – Con diálogo negociación todos ganamos

23 de septiembre de 2016

El Sr. José Herminio Díaz, Secretario General de FESTIVES, la afiliada de StreetNet de El Salvador, comparte los progresos realizados recientemente con respecto al diálogo con el municipio local en su país.

En San Salvador iniciamos un proceso de diálogo tripartito a inicios de agosto del 2015 entre gobierno local, gobierno central por medio del ministerio de trabajo y previsión social, empresa privada (representantes de la ANEP), y varias organizaciones aglutinadas en la UNIDAD NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES conformada por la FEDERACION SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES INDEPENDIENTES VENDEDORES DE EL SALVADOR FESTIVES, LA COORDINADORA NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES (CNV) Y VARIAS ORGANIZACIONES INDEPENDIENTES, conformamos la MESA MUNICIPAL DE DIÁLOGO TRIPARTITO (MMDT) con el apoyo de la OIT.

En dicha mesa se tocaron varios temas de interés de nuestro sector, pero también se realizaron una serie de reuniones bilaterales con el gobierno local presidido por el alcalde NAYIB BUKELE. En ambas reuniones siempre las partes mostramos interés en llegar a acuerdos concretos, fue así como se propuso hacer proyectos de gran envergadura como el predio ex biblioteca, mercado Hula Hula, mercado Cuscatlán, mercado colonia Escalón, entre otros.

En este proceso, llegamos a mínimos acuerdos iniciales como son: ordenarnos en lugares con edificios de gran historia nacional, movernos a otros lugares mientras se realizan los proyectos mencionados con el aval de vendedores y gobierno local. Hasta la fecha se han despejado 24 cuadras, una calle que estaba totalmente cerrada a el paso vehicular, lugares que se embellecerán para la atracción de los amigos turistas que nos visitan. Estamos a las puertas de celebrar por primera vez el 14 de noviembre de cada año, como día nacional del trabajador por cuenta propia, recién aprobado por decreto diputados de todas las fracciones de la honorable asamblea legislativa, donde celebraremos e inauguraremos las ferias de los trabajadores por cuenta propia, donde participarán miembros del gobierno local, organizaciones de trabajadores y empresarios formales, todo en la alianza mesa municipal de diálogo tripartito de San Salvador.

Dentro de los retos que tenemos podemos mencionar la aprobación de nuestra ley especial para los trabajadores por cuenta propia, incorporación al régimen del seguro social, incorporación al sistema de pensiones, por ejemplo; pero no descansaremos hasta lograr que las fracciones de distintos partidos que dicen representarnos en el congreso nos den su apoyo y aprobación. LA UINDAD NACIONAL DE VENDEDORES, LA COORDINADORA SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES POR CUENTA PROPIA (COSICP), LA FEDERACION SINDICAL DE TRABAJADORES INDEPENDIENTES VENDEDORES DE EL SALALVADOR (FESTIVES), estaremos pendientes de cualquier cabildeo con las autoridades competentes para lograr nuestro objetivo.

12th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum and StreetNet-SATUCC Regional Workshop on the implementation of ILO Recommendation 204 on “Transitions from the informal to the Formal Economy”

15 September, 2016

The 12th Southern Africa Civil Society forum took place at Lugogo Conference Centre in Mbabane, Swaziland from the 15th to the 17th of August 2016. A total of eight informal economy organisations from eight Southern African countries participated with ZCIEA represented by ten delegates led by the organisation’s National President Lorraine Sibanda.

As the East and Southern African Focal point for StreetNet International, ZCIEA led the eight countries informal economy organisations in the proceedings standing for the informal economy with Southern African Trade Union Confederation(SATUCC) standing in for trade unions, Fellowship of Christian Councils In Southern Africa (FOCCISA) standing in for faith based organisations and SADC – CNGO for the non-governmental organisations.

The StreetNet-SATUCC Regional Workshop looked at the outputs of the Lusaka workshop on ILO Recommendation 204 on the 28th/29th July. StreetNet had to demonstrate to get the space to submit its issues at the Civil Society Forum.

The informal economy submitted the following points for the CSF communique:

  1. 1. At the Manzini workshop, informal workers and cross-border traders from Lesotho, Malawi, Mocambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia & Zimbabwe met, considered the outcomes arrived at in Lusaka two weeks ago by informal workers organisations and TUs belonging to SATUCC, and built further on these.
    2. SADC countries identified as making most positive progress in implementation of R204 are Malawi, Mocambique and Zambia.
    3. Swaziland SADC people’s summit. Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Botswana.
    4. In Mocambique, the following government agencies are engaging directly with the Associacao da Economia Informal do Mocambique (AIEMO, affiliated to OTM) INSS institute of social security, BAO business registration authority, customs & excise authorities, municipal councils. Customs authorities are working with AIEMO in terms of MoUs at each border post, and municipal councils are working with AIEMO in terms of MoUs in each city.
    5. Participants from Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland reported government unilateralism and continuing and persistent tendencies to make decisions about them in their absence.
    6. In Zimbabwe, the government has used R204 as a tool to find new ways of making money out of workers in the informal economy. The most vicious of these is the notorious ordinance SI64 prohibiting essential imports by cross-border traders.
    7. Participants call on the SADC Heads of Government to instruct the Zimbabwean Government to immediately scrap SI64.
    8. The key difference between the positive examples cited from Malawi, Mocambique and Zambia is the involvement of organised workers in the informal economy in processes of implementation, versus the unilateralism of the other SADC governments. The slogan of all organised workers in the informal economy remains – Nothing For Us Without Us!!
    9. Participants called for the simplification of informal cross-border trade in SADC and put the STR (Simplified Trade Regime) in place by means of bilateral negotiations between more countries, in the interests of the livelihoods of the poorest informal CBTs, most of whom are women. The SADC Secretariat must get to work as soon as possible to get these programs started.
    10. Workers in the informal economy call for the appointment of a SADC Ambassador for Implementation of R204 – that Ambassador should be the President of one of the identified best practice countries Malawi, Mocambique & Zambia.
    11. Participants call for the reinstatement of SADC tribunal.
    12. Participants call for a time-frame for implementation of R204 in SADC – the first report, which should be received within 6 months, should specify the implementation time-table. Workers in informal economy must get progress report-backs every year after SADC Heads of State meetings.

The Civil Society Forum was immediately followed by the SADC peoples summit in Manzini where the informal economy through ZCIEA led a cluster on trade and debt. The cluster came submitted the same points from the CSF to be incorporated into the People’s Summit Communique for submission to the SADC Heads of State summit in Swaziland.

The Final Declaration from the Swaziland workshop which became part of the SADC Civil Society Forum declaration to the SADC Heads of State meeting two weeks later can be found here: 12th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum Commission 6: Transition from informal to formal economy

Hard efforts of street vendors in Rwanda lead to positive outcomes

9 September, 2016

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO, President of Syndicat des Travailleurs Independents de l’Economie Informelle (SYTRIECI), StreetNet affiliate from Rwanda, clarifies the situation of street vendors in her country, namely after the spread of news in social media by Rwanda local government about construction of 12 mini markets for approximately 8000 former street vendors in Rwanda capital – Kigali city who will be exempted from taxes for one year which means they will not pay rent or taxes for within the whole year.

Jeannette NYIRAMASENGESHO states: “the situation of street vendors has always been our concern. The Rwandan Government, for its part, has already understood our concerns in relation to these street vendors.
After negotiation by SYTRIECI with the city of Kigali, where there is the largest part of this group of people, this last is currently concerned about the creation of new markets in their place to be able to work under more comfortable conditions.

As a reminder, the informal sector in Rwanda is composed of several categories of workers who are grouped in many organizations. In this context, SYTRIECI deals mainly with workers who are street vendors and market vendors and other informal sector workers who are struggling for life. It is in this context that SYTRIECI, as a Union that also deals with street vendors and market vendors, took charge to do advocacy for its registered members without forgetting others who are not yet registered.

Pictured are street vendors' already packed in new markets in the Kigali city. They show their contentment in front of markets and in front of their goods

At the statement of the City Hall of the city of Kigali to redevelop the procedure of these street vendors and restructure their way of street vending transactions, SYTRIECI has closely followed this policy to strengthen its strategic and technical contribution.

Indeed, our Union SYTRIECI, on its part, had sent its written opinions and proposals to the mayor of the city of Kigali in line of channeling the possible solutions in the sense that promotes these street vendors. For example, among the solutions proposed to the Mayor of the city of Kigali, there is an idea to group them into cooperatives to enable them to work in order and with objectives of maximally profit from their actions. SYTIECI had highlighted this strategy insistently in its letter to the Mayor of the city of Kigali in May 2016.

On the list of strategies were also the creation of markets, the tax exemption and the creation of unions of solidarity as well as tontines.

Recently, after many meetings discussing the problem between the authorities of the city of Kigali and the street vendors, the unanimous decision was to restructure their working methods and focus on the grouping into cooperatives to maximize the profits and strengthen the solidarity.

By closely following this decision, we have noticed that the implementation has not been easily respected. It took further discussions to strengthen the understanding of this policy. At the same time, the Mayor of the city of Kigali introduced the smaller markets built in the place of street vendors so that they can work in order and at ease. In any case, we are closely following the entire process and in some cases we also have meetings with local authorities to extend the negotiations for the street vendors to obtain some places in the public markets. In doing so, SYTRIECI find it positive. In so doing again, we continue to ensure that this good practice is implemented and lasts longer.

In short, in Rwandan context, the street vending seems not to be the best answer for the harmonious life of the downtown street vendors. Indeed, without forgetting that this work is the Foundation of their survival despite many problems they face in selling their goods on the street, any effort to improve their living conditions is the focus of interest centre for SYTRIECI.

Street vendors express their happiness to get a new working place at the mini market in Kigali city

SYTRIECI continue campaigns to explain to the members about this change. These campaigns mainly analyze the advantage which the street vendors may derive from this new procedure if at least all this is put into practice. It is worthy to highlight that the good attempt to build markets in order to solve the problem of street vendors still poses challenges that effectively still ne to be met. On the one hand, the number of street vendors is too high compared to the markets that the Government has to build to their intention. Only 12 markets are already completed. On the other hand, street vendors are usually devoid of financial means besides their other multiple difficulties amongst other, managing their households. In addition to this, there are problems related to the practicability of these new procedures. Indeed, any change requires time to achieve effective results.

Success will also require and especially putting together the efforts of different stakeholders. The education and practical training must also continue to be considered for improving the results.

However, SYTRIECI needs always the experiences of others in order to be able to carry out its actions in the place of the street vendors and other workers in the informal economy. The means, being substantially limited, the combination of efforts remains a priority for our Union, but also requires an assistance on the part of our partners.

Negotiations and Strategy course for the organizers and leaders of street vendors and informal markets workers

24 August, 2016

By Sibailly Douhoure, StreetNet Organizer

A group photo of all the participants attending the seminar

Forty three delegates seventeen of whom were women came mainly from Monrovia and Paynesville to attend the seminar funded by Cities Alliance in collaboration with WIEGO /StreetNet. This activity was organized from 8 to 12 August, 2016 in Monrovia by NAPETUL (National Petty Traders Union of Liberia).

The seminar was facilitated by Dale Forbes, South Africa and Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organizer.

This course endowed the delegates with the following negotiation skills:

  • How to negotiate successfully?
  • How to keep members involved in the negotiations process?
  • How to follow up negotiations?
  • How to draft a simple agreement?
  • How to enforce negotiated agreements?

For each topic, working groups were formed and allowed to deepen the discussions that were presented during the plenary sessions. Simulations were carried out to negotiate between local municipalities and NAPETUL.

Pictured are: (from right) Dale Forbes, South Africa and Sibailly M. Douhouré, StreetNet Organizer

As a practical exercise, a negotiating team consisting of five leaders of NAPETUL with Dale Forbes met with Madam  Mvogo,  Mayor of Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) in order to initiate discussions on the current Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), existing between MCC and NAPETUL. Unfortunately this formal discussion was interrupted due to the MCC. The practical exercise on negotiations with the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) did not occur. The PCC was not available at the time of the seminar.

The minutes of these negotiations sparked heated discussions and helped to draw lessons for future real negotiations.

Participants of the seminar while working on their task

The seminar enjoyed the participation of the local representation of Slum Dwells International (YMCA Alliance) which took the opportunity to make known the concerns of their community.

In a written statement the participants expressed their concerns about the status of MoU with the Monrovia City Corporation and the Paynesville City Corporation.

Komi Kessouagni: "There is a need to reinforce the StreetNet Regional Focal Point and its responsibility regarding the affiliates"

22 August, 2016

Pictured is Komi KESSOUAGNIKOMI MENSANH KESSOUAGNI, the Secretary General of the Union of Vendors of Construction Materials of Togo (SYVEMACOT) and Coordinator of the StreetNet Regional Focal Point for West and Central Africa emphasized on the progress made since the last StreetNet Congress in 2013.

Comrade Komi comes from Organization which is a founding member of the National umbrella organization of workers in the informal sector of Togo – FAINATRASIT, grouping twenty three membership and union organizations of Togo, working in the sectors of handicraft, market and informal economy.

The West and Central Africa Focal Point numbered up to thirteen (13) affiliated organizations of the following countries:

Democratic Republic of Congo: 2 (LDFC & ASSOVACO), Burundi: 1 (SYVEBU), Rwanda: 1 (SYTRIECI), Togo: 1 (FAINATRASIT), Benin: 1 (UNSYNVEPIB), Senegal: 2 (CNTS & SUDEMS), Niger 1 (FENASEIN), Guinea: 1 (CNTG), Liberia: 1 (NAPETUL), Ghana: 1 (IHVAG), Sierra Leone: 1 (SLeTU).

Comrade Komi notes that the Regional Focal Point (RFP) faces both challenges and successes.

"The main challenge of the RFP to enable a fluent communication among the affiliates in the region is keeping a directory in which we will have telephone and fax numbers, Po Boxes, E-mail addresses, Skype contacts, Facebook addresses etc.

All affiliates can be joined on Skype. I am saying this because still at our meetings in 2012, all the participants received the Skype software compact disk in order to install it. We also talk about video conferences and did dozens of such communications with affiliates from Senegal, Niger and Guinea. Due to some training in English, the RFP has a fluent communication with English speaking countries. At the moment the focal point should be able to start communication between the affiliates who have already set up their Skype. The RFP is in continuous Skype communication with the Regional Organizer Sibailly Douhoure and Wisborn Malaya, who is in charge of the RFP for Eastern and Southern African region" , – underlined the Coordinator.

Pictured are union members during the National seminar for the market vendors and craftsmen with participation of the Mayor and the FAINATRASIT President in Togo

According to the Coordinator Komi, the Work Plan of the RFP has succeeded up to 75% taking into account the main challenges they face, but there is always a space for improvement if all the members are willing to work hard and jointly.

Regarding the recruitment of new affiliates, there is also some progress. Two new affiliates from Burkina Faso and Nigeria will join the RFP for West and Central Africa.   The recruitment of vendors of the markets, craftsmen, and trades in the informal sector is always on the RFP agenda.

Comrade Komi noted that they are also working on organizing young people and they require at least 30% of youth by country in the branches after every activity the affiliates hold in their countries. The motivating force of the members by sensitization and training of youths has been also shown.

There was a huge step forward with the «New Manifesto Campaign » and the launching of the «Guide for the New Manifesto Campaign».

The Day of November 14 became a real Day for the actors of informal economy to express their concerns and demands. Five of the managing members of FAINATRASIT had followed the linguistic training in English to facilitate exchanges with English speaking affiliates.

There is also some development of social and solidarity economy initiatives by creating a health care and tontine mutual.

However, Comrade Komi suggests "reinforcing the Focal Point and its responsibility regarding the affiliates".

He recommends the following:

  • To improve the communication between the affiliates in the region
  • To set a regional training of affiliates and allow exchanges during the training;
  • To enable affiliates to be trained in French language for English speaking countries and English for French speaking countries to avoid the language barrier;
  • To admit  responsible of the focal points’ coordinators in the international council to serve as a bridge between the executive and the affiliates;
  • To support training projects on the role and responsibilities of the members of the executive board of affiliate organizations;
  • To support the training, sensitization, and a Health care credit and savings mutual for a better living of the affiliates;
  • To create a network of focal points in view to share challenges and improvements in the region.

In conclusion, the Coordinator Komi KESSOUAGNI stated:

"We are exhorting officials and managers in charge of the affiliated organizations to work hard for better working conditions of the informal sector workers, since our country is moving towards the formalization according to what came out of the 104th Session of the ILO Conference in 2015".

Interviewed by Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer, August 2016

“No city can be inclusive, equitable and sustainable without the inputs from the informal workers!”

15 August, 2016

By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer

Pictured is Juliana Brown Afari during her participation in the PrepCom3 in Surabaya, Indonesia

Juliana Brown Afari, StreetNet Vice-President and WIEGO Board Member talks about her participatory experience in the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom3) of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which was held in Surabaya, Indonesia on 25 -27 July, 2016 at the Convention and Exhibition Hall Grand City Convex Surabaya.

The United Nations General Assembly, in Resolution 67/216, decided to establish a preparatory committee to carry out the preparations for the conference open to all Member States of the United Nations and members of specialized agencies and of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), following the same resolution, had three meetings (PrepCom1, PrepCom2, and PrepCom3) before the opening of the conference. PrepCom1 was held in New York, the USA in September 2014, PrepCom2 was held in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2015 and PrepCom3 was held in Surabaya, Indonesia in July 2016.

WIEGO as an international network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy and a close StreetNet ally, has been working to ensure that the voices of informal workers, and the visibility of their challenges, are represented. Thus, as a result of WIEGO and partners’ efforts, the informal economy is significantly represented in the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda.

Pictured is Juliana Brown Afari together with other representatives of informal economy sector during the PrepCom3 Meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia

Juliana Brown Afari had a good chance to participate in the PrepCom2 as well as in the PrepCom3 Meetings while being a member of WIEGO Delegation to the Preparatory Meetings before the HABITAT III Conference.

According to Juliana, the Prepcom3 Meeting was educative, full of opportunities to acquire new knowledge and experience, to take part in hot discussions and interact with different stakeholders who have different mindset and views to the related issues.

“It is very important for all the informal workers to be part of and participate in such a high level discussions because informal workers are honorable workers and have a lot of issues that need the attention of our governments. There is no country that can develop without the informal sector workers, who should be part of issue about the cities they want to see and live in the next 30-50 years.

No city can be inclusive, equitable and sustainable without the inputs from the informal workers.

Informal workers are recognized and given the opportunity to speak about the issues themselves and the opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Definitely it should be a proper dialogue and negotiation between the informal street vendors and hawkers so that the New Urban Agenda is ensured to be inclusive and covers the urban poor needs”- emphasized Juliana.

She also stressed that street vendors have to ensure that their demands, such as: right to vend in public spaces, stopping evictions, simplified regulation for informal cross-border traders and others are reflected in the New Urban Agenda which will be adopted in HABITAT III Conference in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador.

“That’s why: Nothing For Us Without Us”, – concluded Juliana.

WIEGO, after participatory consultative processes with membership-based organizations of urban informal workers, developed its Policy Document on Implementing the New Urban Agenda, which clearly guides what do urban informal workers need from both local and national governments. The Document also indicates on common and sector-specific needs of urban informal workers.

To download the Document, please click here: http://wiego.org/sites/wiego.org/files/resources/files/WIEGO-MBO-Demands-PrepCom3.pdf

AZIEA shows the way to monitoring levy-collection in Zambia

11 August, 2016

By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer

AZIEA members while protesting over Market Levy hike in 2014

StreetNet Affiliate from Zambia, the Alliance for Zambia Informal Economy Associations (AZIEA) was launched in October 2002. Over the years, it has faced and overcome many challenges relating to the informal economy. These include the lack of government policy on the informal sector and its development; lack of its representation in policy dialogue and decision-making and the lack of mobility to organise, recruit and service members.

One of AZIEA’s notable successes was its levy-tracking research which was launched in 2008 and completed in 2009. A Report which includes the findings and recommendations of this research, revealed a lack of institutional accountability and transparency regarding the levies collected. This was in violation of provisions of the Markets and Bus Stations Act of 2007. AZIEA had been a leading organisation in having this Act amended to ensure the proper collection of levies and their allocation.

AZIEA leader, Comrade Lameck Kashiwa, shared with StreetNet, some of the issues and challenges revealed by the research. It was initiated, he says, because of AZIEA’s suspicion that levies collected were not utilised properly as there was no service provision for both markets and bus stations which such levies should have ensured. As a major stakeholder in this, AZIEA wanted evidence on how much money was being collected and how this money was being used. Another concern was that the councils, who used one account for all monies collected, were using these to pay salaries.

Lameck Kashiwa, AZIEA General Secretary presenting and facilitating at the Lusaka Colloquium on Social Protection for the Informal Economy workers

The research AZIEA commissioned, was the first of its kind in attempting to track monies raised from market levies. The markets of Luburma (more popularly known as Kamwala Market) and New Site Market in Lusaka and Mansa respectively, were the chosen "sample" sites of the research, specifically to provide a comparative analysis between urban and rural based markets. The study used elements of the World Bank’s concept of Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS).

The findings of the 3-part report indicated serious shortcomings and malpractices in both markets, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability about the levies collected. First, it was difficult to accurately calculate the total revenue collected from the markets since these were collected by various unofficial sources eg ad  hoc and standing committees (for security and funerals); other monies went to China Hennan. Moreover, institutional mechanisms prescribed by the Markets and Bus Stations Act 2007, such as management boards and managers to administer the levies collected, did not exist in both markets. Third, the research revealed that not all monies collected by council cashiers were receipted; in some cases over half or three-quarters of daily collections ended in individuals’ pockets instead of council coffers.

SEWA Members visiting Chisokone Market in Kitwe as part of exchange visit with AZIEA

On the positive side, Comrade Lashiwa states that the survey shows that it is possible to use PETS to monitor market levies. PETS is a critical tool to ensure  that provisions of the Markets and Bus Stations 2007 are implemented. This helps with scrutinising market budgets’ formulation, resource allocation and utilisation, and further determine the quality of service provision to the general membership.

Recalling AZIEA’s activism to get the Market and Bus Stations Act amended, by holding a strike and refusing to pay market levies, and the findings of the research,  Comrade Kashiwa noted: “The process of policy change is very tiring due to a lot of bureaucracy; hence it requires commitment and knowledge of procedure. Our suggestion is that the informal economy leadership needs to engage the trade union movement for support."

"It is also important for leadership to report back at any stage of engagement to seek support from members in a case where you may require militant actions (protests, strike-refusing to pay tax, petitioning etc.)," he concluded.

To read the full research report on “Market Levy Tracking”, please click here:

Promoting labour rights of Workers in the Informal Economy in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras

5 August, 2016

On July, 2016, representatives of Sindicato de Trabajadores Comerciantes Patentados y Afines de Costa Rica (SINTRACOPEA) and Federación Nacional de Trabajadores Independientes Vendedores de El Salvador (FESTIVES), both affiliated to StreetNet Internacional, participated in the Subregional Seminar "Effective experiences of transition to formality: Lessons learned and challenges in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras" organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Source: Facebook SINTRACOPEA. July 21st, 2016

This Seminar is part of the activities of the ILO project "Promoting respect for labour rights of Workers in the Informal Economy in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras", which lasted 45 months (October 31st, 2012 – July 31st, 2016) and aimed to promote labour rights of Workers in the informal economy (decent work and social protection) by sensitizing them, increasing the organizational capacity and productivity of workers, and improving the capacity of local and national governments to meet the needs of workers in the informal economy in municipalities of Costa Rica (Desamparados Municipality), El Salvador (Santa Tecla Municipality) and Honduras (Central District Municipality -Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela).

Source: Facebook SINTRACOPEA. July 21st, 2016

As a result of the project, organizations of workers in the informal economy in those countries got involved in Tripartite Dialogue Round Tables, and also, have established two centers, one in Costa Rica and the other in El Salvador known as "Casas de los Derechos" ("Houses of Rights"), that provide information about municipal procedures (such as, patent applications); offer mediation services when there are conflict situations with municipal authorities; and provide legal advice to exercise labour activities. Workers in the informal economy also receive training in capacity building on employability and enterpreneurship, and strengthening of organizations. These centers have considered the guidelines of the ILO Recomendation 204 concerning "The Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy".

The newly opened "Casa de Derechos" ("House of Rights") in Costa Rica has served more than 300 people (street vendors, domestic workers, most vulnerable women and migrants, etc.) only during the first month. Kattia Barquero, Secretary of Organization of SINTRACOPEA and person in charge of "Casa de Derechos" ("House of Rights") said that "WhatsApp and Facebook have been very useful to communicate the existence of the Centres and to follow up with people who have paid a visit."

Source: OIT, J.A. Reyes y R. Lobo, July 26th, 2016

The ILO has issued recommendations for sustainability of the Centers and has trained employees who worked there on migration, labour legislation, human rights, politics and leadership development issues, because it is expected that "Casas de Derechos" ("Houses of Rights") begin to function independently from August 2016.

Sources:
http://www.ilo.org/sanjose/programas-y-proyectos/WCMS_206470/lang–es/index.htm

http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/features/WCMS_502761/lang–es/index.htm

http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/features/WCMS_502745/lang–en/index.htm?shared_from=shr-tls

Informal economy in Georgia: challenges and opportunities

22 July, 2016

By Oksana Abboud, StreetNet Media Officer

Different continents, languages and cultures but the same challenges for the informal traders around the world.

Pictured is Miranda Mandaria, SCWU PresidentToday we are going to discover another region of StreetNet family – Caucasus and talk about informal economy in Georgia.

Due to high level of unemployment in Georgia, the majority of the population is engaged in the informal economy sector. Unemployment in Georgia for many years was one of the most urgent problems. Furthermore, it had worse indicators in the whole region.

Informal employment is observed not only in agriculture but also in other fields of activity, such as: home-based workers, street vendors, domestic workers, private tutors and nurses, workers in family businesses, small producers, taxi drivers, construction workers and others.

Most people are lured into the informal economy for the simple reason that they simply do not have other means of livelihood, and because there is a shortage of decent work in the whole country, including a low level of wages.

In light of this situation, the only national trade union center in Georgia – the Georgian Trade Union Congress (GTUC) started to organize informal workers into unions and eventually a Self-Employed and Commercial Sector Workers Union of Georgia (SCWU) was established in 2009.

In 2013 SCWU held its own Congress with 45 delegates on which Ms Miranda Mandaria was unanimously elected as a President of the SCWU. The Trade Union has six Board Members and for today 550 members.

Among the main challenges the SCWU is facing are:

  • Lack of social and legislation guarantees for informal sector workers
  • Lack of proper legislation for informal economy workers
  • Lack of knowledge of informal workers about their worker’s rights
  • Engagement of students in informal sector, who usually leave their job very quickly

Miranda Mandaria with SCWU activists while discussing union internal issues

However, SCWU is always actively involved in members’ everyday work life. “We try our best to advocate them and usually represent before the court. According to our statistics, 97 % has good results in court. We also help them to deal with employers. Most recently we helped employees from supermarket chain “GOODWILL’’ where employees were not paid for their sick leave. We also had very good and different practice in other cases”, – states Miranda about her experience as a SCWU President and GTUC lawyer.

SCWU also gets a lot of support from the Georgian Trade Unions Confederation. The latter usually assist SCWU with technical support but also provides trade union with conference rooms and new equipment.

Just recently GTUC hosted an ITUC-PERC Conference on “Care economy and Women’s Rights” where such issues like informally employed women were one of the main subjects of discussion.

During the conference the recommendations for further development were presented and it was revealed that unions through social dialogue and negotiations can achieve ensuring the right to social protection for those engaged in the informal economy.

SCWU together with GTUC are currently preparing a proposal for the resolution of problems arising between the city mayor’s office and the street vendors, such as safety at workplace, hygiene etc. 

They are also working together on implementation of the ILO Recommendation 204 on transition from informal to formal economy.

Thus, Miranda Mandaria attended the Sub-Regional Workshop on the ILO Recommendation No. 204 which took place in Baku, Azerbaijan on 13-14 June, 2016. It was a regional event where national trade union centers’ representatives discussed policies and actions of trade unions in the promotion and implementation of the ILO Recommendation No. 204.

Many participants expressed their concern with the fact that the share of informal workers remains very high and is still growing, as a result of the new wave of the economic crisis and political instability in the region. One of the sources of informal employment are informally employed refugees from armed conflict zones.

Miranda notes that it should be a will of the Government to deal with this issue in order to find a proper solution on how to make a transition from informal to formal economy smooth and without any rights’ and livelihoods’ damage for the workers concerned.

“We think that at the end of the day there shall be proper legislation and right campaign to advocate transition from informal into formal economy. Recommendations are very important, but there is a problem when it comes to adopt them into national legislation. The reason behind it is that till today Georgian Government has ratified only 17 ILO Conventions. It is very hard to activate recommendations, which are not binding but we will try our best to tackle this big challenge”, underlined SCWU President Miranda Mandaria. 

 

“Cruel Treatment Of Street Vendors” In Colombia

20 July 2016

By Pedro Luis Ramirez B.

Pictured is Comrade Pedro Luis RamirezPedro Luis Ramirez B. is a member of StreetNet International’s (SI) Audit Team which forms part of StreetNet’s Executive Committee. He is also National President of the Unión General de Trabajadores en la Economía Informal UGTI-CUT (Colombia). Below he talks about the situation of street vendors in his country.

The world watches with complacency as the Colombian government prepares to sign a peace agreement between itself and the guerrillas of FARC. It is hoped this will end the political violence that has characterised the history of our country over the last 60 years. Most Colombians would want to express their support for this event.

However, it is the same government which has now decided to declare war on poor street vendors by passing a Police Code that prohibits their trading activities. This has set back the gains made by traders in their struggle for the right to work. Such gains were formally recognised by the Constitutional Court which is the highest judicial authority in the country. Local mayors are now making a mockery of these constitutional gains. They have proceeded, as has happened in the capital city of Bogota, with the persecution and cruel treatment of street vendors, including the confiscation of their goods.

Of course, the Police Code is one of the components of an organised police state which wants to deter and prevent the emergence of social mobilisation and protest in a society characterised by inequalities, injustices and inequities. Within this, poverty is criminalised; the poor are stigmatised as a dangerous class. Street vendors become "scapegoats" for state authority actions. The state uses the media to explain its actions as part of fighting urban insecurity. However, its real purpose is to intimidate a population that is awakening to the realisation of the need to defend its dignity and citizen rights.

In Bogota, progress was made in the last decade in this regard, thanks to the organized mobilisation of street vendors and consultation with governments of the democratic left wing, which won in three successive local government elections. Norms were set to allow for the economic use of public spaces and the protection of street vendors from police abuse and that of mayors, through due process and laws.

As a result the city authorities are obliged to change their behavior of permanent persecution of street vendors, which has marked them throughout their history in the twentieth century. This obligation is clearer after the Constitutional Court found that in a social constitutional state, it is understood that a street vendor engages in vending as a livelihood, because of the inability of the state to guarantee decent employment; that evictions and seizures prevent him from performing this activity, leading the worker to total unemployment; and that this approach not only does not correspond to the exercise of authority within the Constitution that governs us, but also aggravates the problem of unemployment that afflicts us as a society. Thus, the activity of an informal worker must be understood as a solution that contributes to cover responsibilities that the State does not fulfill, which are related to employment policies and the right to work.

However, the arrival of the new mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa, has changed matters. Penalosa is described as the enemy of street vendors because of all his actions to eradicate street vending, destroy their organisations and violate their rights as citizens, in his first term in the period 1997-2000. There have been actions from the government in the same direction with evictions, abuses and confiscations. These are illegal but are glossed over as necessary for security. Street vendors are presented by the media, as people who are manipulated by "mafias" of their organisations and leaders who exploit them and commodify the public space.

Recently a judge ordered Penalosa to meet the street vendor organisations; he publicly said that he would not do so.

The UGTI, which has become the heart of Local and District Committees in the capital city, has played a leading role in the country, in the amendment of norms and governance practices that criminalise the activities and allow for the evictions of street vendors.

We also organised a mass mobilization of street vendors on February 29th. We are working very hard to hold a town hall meeting – a form of citizen participation that will allow street vendors to publicly confront the current mayor about his slanderous speeches that stigmatise them, as well as about the unconstitutional and illegal measures that violate their rights as citizens and workers, and force a consultation and social dialogue.

Pictured is Pedro Luis Ramirez (in the first row from the left) together with other StreetNet International Council Members