Trade Union Transformation and Informal Sector Organising in Uganda: The Prospects and Challenges for Promoting Labour-led Development
Despite celebrations from governments, corporations and international financial institutions around increasing economic growth, the majority of the world’s urban labour force continues to work under informal conditions, lacking enforceable contracts, adequate earnings, democratic representation, secure employment and social protection. The pervasiveness of informal labour globally has given rise to numerous calls to adopt a wider and more diverse understanding of what constitutes labouring classes and what is required to organise them. Our case study assesses the outcomes and effectiveness of informal sector organising in Uganda, focusing on the transportation, market and textile sectors. Drawing on Guy Standing’s distinction between “business” and “community” unions and Benjamin Selwyn’s contrasting of “capital-centred development theory” (CCDT) and “labour-led development” (LLD), we argue that community unionist approaches are most effective in addressing the decent work deficit in the informal economy. Simultaneously, the trade unions face constant barriers to successful community organising in the informal economy that cannot be easily overcome without wider changes to the structural conditions under which union organisers must operate.
KEYWORDS: Trade unionism; informal labour organising; labour-centred development; Uganda; decent work
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