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.
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.
Food delivery and passenger service drivers and are forced to follow the company apps. But if apps miscalculate and send drivers in the wrong direction, or lower wages for drivers stuck in traffic, it’s the driver who loses wages, or is even booted from the platform. The latest episode of My Boss Is a Robot shows that for app-based companies, these are not bugs–they are built into an algorithmic system designed to move money from workers and into the pockets of the rich corporate bosses.
From Thailand, delivery driver Niap Chunti Ta Kai See Kun tells Podcast Host and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau that the app often shows his destination far closer than it really is–sometimes indicating a route straight through buildings.
“The distance in the Google Map, for an example, is five kilometers, but the distance in the application map is always shorter, like three kilometers,” he says. “I think that’s not a mistake, they intend to do that because that will reduce the pay and that will reduce the cost for the application. The shorter the distance, the less they have to pay us. But the longer the distance, the more they have to pay us.”
Drivers also work long hours and rush between deliveries because if they don’t, the app punishes them by lowering pay.
“And that’s why you see some drivers died on the wheel,” says Lawal Ayobami, an app-based driver in Nigeria. “There was no rest for the driver. They don’t even go to their family. They’re on the road because they want to make money.”
Delivery Drivers Stand Up for Their Rights
Delivery drivers around the world are standing up for their rights: Earlier this year, Nigeria’s Ministry of Labor recognized the Amalgamated Union of App-Based Transport Workers of Nigeria after delivery drivers organized in cities across the country.
“That means workers like Ayobami will begin to get the protections and benefits they deserve in this highly unregulated and informal sector,” says Bader-Blau.
Solidarity Center’s Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau issued the following statement in response to President Biden and President Lula’s announcement of the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights.
“Today’s landmark announcement—and commitment—from the governments of the United States and Brazil affirms respect for freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and the essential role of democratic trade unions in advancing a just and vibrant global economy. If the U.S-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights is robustly funded and vigorously implemented, worker rights and decent jobs will be at the center of critical conversations and action on the transition to a clean energy economy, the role of emerging technologies, corporate accountability in supply chains, ending gender-based violence and harassment at work and other global priorities.
The last decade has been a stark one for working people across the globe with significantly curtailed rights, shrinking wages and hampered ability to improve their workplaces and hold corporations and governments accountable for their actions. We hope theU.S-Brazil Partnership for Workers’ Rights is just the beginning of government commitments to put worker rights front and center, not just in Brazil and the United States, but around the world.”
DECLARAÇÃO: O anúncio do Presidente Biden e do Presidente Lula é um passo positivo para o avanço dos direitos dos trabalhadores em todo o mundo
A Diretora Executiva do Solidarity Center, Shawna Bader-Blau, fez a declaração abaixo sobre o anúncio do Presidente Biden e do Presidente Lula da Parceria EUA-Brasil pelos Direitos dos Trabalhadores.
“O anúncio histórico – e o compromisso – realizado hoje pelos governos dos Estados Unidos e do Brasil afirmam o respeito pela liberdade de associação, o direito à negociação coletiva, e o papel essencial dos sindicatos democráticos na promoção de uma economia global justa e pujante. Se a Parceria EUA-Brasil pelos Direitos dos Trabalhadores for financiada e implementada com vigor, os direitos dos trabalhadores e os empregos decentes estarão no centro das conversas críticas e medidas sobre a transição para uma economia de energia limpa, o papel das tecnologias emergentes, a responsabilidade corporativa nas cadeias de suprimentos, o combate à violência e assédio baseados em gênero no trabalho e outras prioridades globais.
A última década foi cruel para os trabalhadores de todo o mundo, com direitos significativamente reduzidos, salários reduzidos e capacidade dificultada de melhorar os seus locais de trabalho e responsabilizar as empresas e os governos pelas suas ações. Esperamos que a Parceria EUA-Brasil pelos Direitos dos Trabalhadores seja apenas o começo dos compromissos do governo para colocar os direitos dos trabalhadores em primeiro plano, não apenas no Brasil e nos Estados Unidos, mas em todo o mundo.”
More than 1,000 workers were impacted by the sudden closure, during vacation, of the U.S.-owned Vald’or factory. They did not receive severance pay, as required by law.
In late December 2021, the factory owner sent a text message to workers asking them to return to work on January 6, 2022. Shortly after, workers received a second message telling them not to return, and the factory remained closed.
A month later, workers who lived near the factory witnessed the owner leaving the building with materials. The workers asked the owner what was happening. They were told that the factory was closing due to bankruptcy and a lack of orders.
Workers began demonstrating at the factory that evening and spent the night there. They called the Haitian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST), and the next day, MAST representatives came to the factory along with the factory owner to meet with the workers, where the owner confirmed the factory’s closure.
The workers reached out to leaders of the Association of Textile Workers’ Unions for Re-importation (GOSTTRA), affiliated with the Confederation of Public and Private Sector Workers (CTSP), and Respect for Haitian factory workers (ROHAM), affiliated with Centrale Nationale des Ouvriers Haitians (CNOHA). GOSTTRA called on workers to meet at MAST’s regional headquarters on February 3 to ask that workers receive the severance pay and benefits owed them. Both unions at the factory, with the support of the Solidarity Center and Worker Rights Consortium, worked with Better Work Haiti, the Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH), MAST and the government’s Textile Ombudsperson’s Office (BMST) to trace and contact workers, calculate what each worker was owed and inform workers about the distribution process.
PVH Corp, the owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, agreed to cover workers’ severance and pension contributions, totaling $1 million. Severance pay for most workers was the equivalent of a half- or full-year’s wages. A number of women had health insurance claims, which were also covered.
GOSTTRA leadership heralds this victory for the factory workers–and for the entire Haitian labor movement. “What we learned from this experience is that if all the unions could work together, we would be better able to achieve our goals,” they say in a written statement.
Lynch met with UGTT General Secretary Noureddine Taboubi on Friday prior to taking part in a Saturday rally organized by UGTT in eight cities to protest the stifling “of basic rights, including union rights.” In her speech, Lynch called for the release of Anis Kaabi, general secretary of Tunisia’s highway workers union, who was arrested for organizing a strike of toll booth workers.
Following the protest, authorities posted an article accusing Lynch of breaking the law by threatening the country’s security. Authorities confronted Lynch, giving her 24 hours to leave the country and ordering her to inform them of her activities and anyone she spoke to during that period.
After arriving safely in Brussels, Lynch drew a parallel between her expulsion and the harassment of trade unionists in Tunisia.
“The decision to expel me for taking part in a peaceful protest is typical of the harassment and intimidation faced by trade unionists in Tunisia every day,” she said. “In the past few months, members of the UGTT have been arrested, sacked and spied on simply for carrying out entirely legal trade union work.”
The European Trade Union Confederation issued a statement that decried “the campaign of intimidation and harassment being waged against trade unions,” including arrests, firings, malicious lawsuits, the monitoring and restricting of trade union activity by law enforcement, and the promotion of yellow trade unions. The International Trade Union Confederation noted the “enormous damage to Tunisia’s economy, society and the daily life of working people” resulting from the president’s policies.
Lynch’s expulsion is the latest in a series of anti-union and anti-democratic actions including the arrest of Anis Kaabi and the weaponization of the country’s courts against union members for exercising their rights, such as the freedom to strike.
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