App-based drivers in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, achieved a historic milestone by negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement with a leading platform-based transportation company, Osh Taxi.

The September 29 pact, negotiated by the Kabylan union, extends beyond union members to cover all 2,000 drivers in the taxi fleet. It provides strong safety and health protections, including prevention of gender-based violence and harassment, and protects drivers’ rights against labor violations like unjust employer fines.

“The signing of the collective agreement is a highly important event that signifies a pivotal moment in our union’s history since its establishment,” says Kabylan President Ulan Cholponbaev. “This agreement has set an outstanding precedent for labor relations between taxi companies and workers, serving as a valuable tool for safeguarding the labor rights of drivers.”

App-based drivers started mobilizing several years ago to get the same rights and protections as workers covered by Kyrgyz law, and recently formed the Kabylan union, which now has 3,000 members.

The agreement also covers such areas as unjust suspension of drivers on the platform and gender discrimination, and includes a comprehensive set of measures and policies aimed at creating a work environment free from harassment and violence.

“Our union brings improvements, not for us only, but for the next generation, too,” says driver and Kabylan member Gulmayram Batirbekova. A single mother of five, she has become an active leader in Kabylan, which she says is named after an animal “that is fiercely independent, a leader.”

Kabylan Expands Outreach

Drivers and their union began the process in March, and the contract followed formalization of a social partnership agreement between Kabylan and Osh Taxi. The foundational agreement laid the groundwork for negotiations that led to the comprehensive collective agreement.

Kabylan also provides legal assistance for taxi drivers in Osh, the country’s second largest city, and throughout the southern region, with the union’s lawyer holding more than 30 consultations on workers’ rights each month.

The union is getting set to sign a second collective agreement with CARS.KG, another prominent taxi company that employs 400 taxi drivers.

Although most countries have hard-won labor laws in place, app-based drivers and 2 billion informal sector workers have few legal protections. A new six-part Solidarity Center Podcast series, “My Boss Is a Robot,” takes you on a journey with app-based drivers as they navigate a system that is programmed to exploit workers in the global gig economy. Download it here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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the News from The Solidarity Center