Nigeria Launches Platform Worker Rights Campaign

Nigeria Launches Platform Worker Rights Campaign

In Nigeria—where 93 percent of working people toil in the informal economy for low wages, unprotected by labor law and without social services such as pensions and healthcare—app-based workers are fighting for their rights.

With Solidarity Center support, today the Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON), the National Union of Professional APP-Based Transport Workers (NUPA-BW) and the Professional E-Hailing Drivers and Private Owners of Nigeria (PEDPA) launched a joint campaign for formal recognition and adequate representation for all, regardless of classification.

“A worker is a worker,” says Solidarity Center Nigeria Country Program Director Sonny Ogbuehi. “And all working people have the right to join together to secure the decent jobs and fair wages they deserve.”

During the early part of the pandemic, employment in Nigeria plummeted. Although employment has since rebounded, most newly created jobs are precarious and the cost of living has skyrocketed. Many young people, including those who graduated university into the pandemic, are now employed in the gig economy or other informal-sector jobs because no formal-sector work is available.

Following a Supreme Court decision in the United Kingdom classifying Uber drivers as workers  rather than independent contractors, NUPA-BW drivers in May last year announced a class action suit against two international app-based ridesharing companies for compensation of unpaid overtime and holiday pay, pensions, social security, as well as union recognition. A month prior, drivers in Lagos embarked on a strike for an immediate increase in fares to compensate for the cost of goods and services that, PEDPA said, had increased by more than 200 percent without a commensurate fare increase.

“We want [ride-share companies] to respect the Nigerian constitution and labor law,” says NUPA-BW President Ayoade Ibrahim.

The joint campaign’s demands include full worker and union rights; provision of social protection programs, including pensions, adequate and affordable healthcare, and disability care; provision by the employer of basic workplace infrastructure such as electricity, water and toilets; improved safety and security measures; and worker input into pricing.

The campaign will:

  • Support a new NUPA-BW case at the national industrial court for classification of app-based drivers as workers
  • Produce a weekly call-in radio program to educate the public about the challenges faced by workers employed by app-based companies and other informal-sector workers
  • Facilitate platform workers efforts to organize and support their efforts to advocate for their rights with government and policy makers, employers and within the public domain.

Some 2 billion people work in the informal sector globally, as domestic workers, taxi drivers and street vendors, many of them women. This number has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Informal-economy work now comprises most jobs in many countries and is increasing worldwide. Although informal-economy workers can create up to half of a country’s gross national product, most have no access to health care, sick leave or support when they lose their jobs, and they have little power to advocate for living wages and safe and secure work. The Solidarity Center is part of a broad-based movement in dozens of countries to help workers in the informal economy come together to assert their rights and raise living standards.

UN Women Ends Partnership with Uber

UN Women Ends Partnership with Uber

United Nations Women announced today it is cutting ties with the ride share company Uber, after unions and other civil society groups protested that the company’s business model perpetuates precarious work—job instability, lack of health insurance and other social benefits, and little labor law protection.

Uber had said it would create 1 million jobs for women, a benchmark unions say is meaningless unless those jobs are stable, safe and provide wages sufficient to support families.

“There was an immediate rejection by unions and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) of this idea of a million jobs that we knew were likely to be insecure, ill paid and potentially unsafe,” says Brigitta Paas, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) vice president.

The decision to partner with Uber, announced during the opening days of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting last week, outraged CSW participants, who organized a global union statement and public protest.

“Uber economics is the most aggressive informalization of an industry which was already deregulated three decades ago,” the global union Public Services International (PSI) said last week. “Indeed, it represents exactly what the women’s movement has been fighting for decades.”

In many cities and countries, taxi drivers are union members with good wages and benefits, the opposite of the Uber model. By classifying drivers as “independent contractors,” Uber denies them basic protections, from minimum wage pay to health care and other benefits on the job. PSI cited Uber research that “revealed drivers’ average annual earnings of $15,000 and a proliferation of part-time work.”

Further, says International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) General Secretary Sharan Burrow, “Uber does not create jobs—it replaces existing, regulated, taxi jobs with low-paid, precarious and exploitative work.”

“Unions rose up at the CSW, analyzed why the partnership was harmful to women and showed how unions and the economic empowerment they fight for, are key to gender equality,” says Lisa McGowan, Solidarity Center senior specialist for gender equality. “Decent wages, social benefits, stable employment—all are fundamental to achieving gender equality.”


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