Recognizing that increased numbers help unions better advocate for worker rights and negotiate wages and working conditions with Kyrgyzstan’s employers and government, 28 union activists joined the Solidarity Center’s Organizing School, a four-part program that began in March. The school drew participants from construction, informal trading, public service, taxi and textile sectors, many of whom are already successfully putting their new skills into practice.
“By emphasizing practical skills, fostering authentic communication and providing ongoing support, this initiative is contributing to a stronger labor movement and empowered organizers who can bring about positive change in their workplaces and communities,” says Solidarity Center Program Officer Elena Rubtsova.
Early successes of the program include establishment of a union savings’ program, “Zymyryk-Invest,” by the union representing construction workers, which has already attracted dozens of new members, and expansion of the taxi drivers’ union, Kabylan, into Kyrgyzstan’s fourth largest city, Karakol, through use of a new, dedicated WhatsApp chat group. Although Kyrgyzstan’s labor law does not specifically protect the rights of workers on digital platforms, it allows self-employed taxi drivers to unite within pre-existing trade unions.
Between training sessions, organizing school participants practiced their new skills, including strategic communications, and benefited from group and Solidarity Center support.
“This training helped me understand that speaking from the heart and using our own words resonates more effectively with others,” says Kabylan President Ulan Cholponbaev.
More than a hundred Grab food delivery riders launched the Iloilo Grab Riders Union (IGRU) in Iloilo City, Philippines, on November 24, then staged a unity ride around the city, located on Panay Island. Some 200 drivers joined in the ride, with more riders taking part from the streets, organizers said. The newly formed union’s demand is for just fares, paid sick leave and other social protections, and union recognition.
“The increasing price of gasoline and of commodities and the decrease in base fare delivery fees makes Grab riders work twice their normal hours to get the same wage they earned before the pandemic,”Archie, one of the Grab drivers who helped organize IGRU, said on the local radio show DZRH News. Archie is also a member of the Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party).
Photo Credit: Solidarity Center/Andreanna Garcia
Preceding the launch of IGRU, gig drivers from Grab and other platforms such as Food Panda and Maxim had begun to form unions across the Philippines. On August 15, some 300 delivery riders from General Santos City organized under the union, United Delivery Riders of the Philippines (RIDERS). RIDERS is composed of delivery riders from Food Panda, Maxim and Grab. Unity rides have also been conducted in the cities of General Santos and Cebu. Elsewhere in the country, local chapters of RIDERS also have begun to organize.
Their aim is to formally establish the United Delivery Riders of the Philippines (RIDERS) as the national union for the riders. “During the pandemic, when Grab suspended the GrabCar service, Grab food delivery drivers became the lifeline of the company. Is it wrong to ask them to be fair?” asked John Jay, a multi-app driver and organizer from Metro Manila. He attended the IGRU launch to express support for his fellow Grab drivers.
In addition to the decrease in earnings, delivery drivers in the Philippines have little or no job security or basic benefits as they are part of the gig economy. Under Philippine labor laws, delivery riders are classified as “independent contractors,” which does not provide an employee-employer relationship. As gig economy workers, delivery riders are not entitled to social protections such as health insurance and income security, among other basic protections.
“Our interests will be protected only through the passing of laws,” said Mark, a driver and organizer from Pampanga. Like John Jay, he also traveled to Iloilo to share a message of solidarity for his fellow riders.
Philippine Senator Risa Hontiveros proposed the Protektadong Online Workers, Entrepreneurs, Riders at Raketera (POWERR) Act, which would protect workers in the gig economy. A committee currently is working on the bill.
The IGRU launch was supported by the Solidarity Center, the global union IUF, RIDERS, the Center of United and Progressive Workers (SENTRO), Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party) and the Brotherhood of Two Wheels (Kagulong).
A garment union leader and her husband were brutally attacked in late August, marking the latest incident of apparent factory-sponsored violence against workers attempting to exercise their right to freedom of association and to just, safe jobs in Bangladesh’s garment factories.
In August 26 as Mira, acting union president at Global Trousers Ltd. in Chittagong, and her husband waited for the bus to take them home after work, several men—armed with iron rods, their faces hidden by handkerchiefs—violently attacked her. She was knocked unconscious following a blow to the head, and her husband, who rushed to help her, also suffered a beating. After the attack, Mira was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.
The couple report that a low-level manager pointed Mira out to their attackers, and that the men shouted throughout the assault that they would kill the pair unless they resigned from the trade union and left the factory. Days earlier, workers said a group of men with knives were waiting for Mira outside the factory gates, though a change in her routine kept them from carrying out their plan.
In 2011, a new wave of organizing spread across Bangladesh after a long drought when no new independent unions were able to organize. At that time, workers at Global Trousers were among the first to try and organize a trade union—encountering intense resistance from their employer. Although the union met the legal requirements to be registered officially as a trade union, factory management contested its registration, which has since been working its way through the courts. The High Court ruled earlier this year that the case should be transferred to the country’s labor courts but that the union could now legally operate as a trade union inside the factory.
While only three of the original union leaders are left in the factory, union members have continued to persevere under the guidance and leadership of their trade union federation, Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation (BIGUF). In the last several months, workers have recruited new members and established a union dues structure through which they are regularly collecting dues from members to continue to build a strong, sustainable organization.
However, management has strengthened its campaign against the union as well. In August, union leaders reported that managers at various levels within the factory told them they would face severe consequences for their activism. On August 22, another union leader reported that men, their faces disguised, dragged her and her husband from their home to attack them but were driven off by people in the community.
The union, with assistance from BIGUF, has filed police reports and sent letters to relevant government officials, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and other local stakeholders to demand justice for the anti-union acts and for management to respect the union’s legal right to exist. And on September 3, union leaders joined with other BIGUF union members and other labor allies to draw attention to the issue in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka. To date, the perpetrators of the assaults remain at large.
Campaign and Media Communications Director
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.