Transforming Transport Unions through Mass Organisation of Informal Workers: A Case Study of the ATGWU in Uganda


  • Dave Spooner Global Labour Institute
  • John Mark Mwanika Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union



This paper analyses the power resources of informal transport workers in Uganda, and the transformation processes of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union (ATGWU) and their newly affiliated informal workers' associations in organising informal workers. We examined the process of organisation, how strategic choices were made, and how the expected increases in power resources were realised. We also analysed the critical factors behind the success of the strategy, as well as the lessons learned and the unresolved challenges. The ATGWU faced an almost complete collapse in membership following the impact of structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s, and the subsequent informalisation of the transport industry. In recent years, it has pioneered a strategy of organising through the affiliatio of mass-membership associations of informal workers, notably representing minibus taxi workers and motorcycle taxi ("boda-boda") riders. The unionisation of informal workers has had a dramatic impact: a reduction in police harassment, substantial gains through collective bargaining, reduced internal conflict within the associations, and improvement of visibility and status for nformal women transport workers. The rapid expansion has raided new challenges for the union, particularly in the transition to a fully integrated formal-informal organisation, the need for reform of democratic process and accountability, and the maintenance of solidarity between informal and formal workers.


Author Biographies

Dave Spooner, Global Labour Institute

Co-Director, Global Labour Institute, Manchester UK.

John Mark Mwanika, Amalgamated Transport & General Workers Union

Projects Coordinator/Secretary General Duties