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Platform for Organising by Workers for Empowerment and Recognition (GLP-POWER)

BIICL is delighted to be joining forces with Solidar Suisse and Pragya in a project which aims to assess and promote new and innovative modes of organising for marginalized informal/precarious workers in South and Southeast Asia. GLP-Power seeks to enhance workers' agency and effective bargaining, increase the visibility of workers' causes, and support regional solidarity and inclusion while overcoming the impediments and restricted democratic space in their environments.

GLP-Power explores the issues and challenges facing informal workers in six South and Southeast Asian countries, namely: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal. The project focuses on informal workers in industries including agriculture, construction, textile, tourism, domestic work, mining and fishing. Generally excluded from labour laws and collective bargaining, informal workers are more exposed to violations of labour rights, including poor working conditions and health and safety issues, and more vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and discrimination. Building upon the existing efforts of workers' organizations, the project is creating an active sharing platform connecting workers from various sectors and countries at a regional level to share experiences, learn from each other and from the research, and build capacity for change.

The project's specific objectives include:

  • Developing a regional platform for marginalized informal/precarious workers in South and Southeast Asia comprising workers and/or their organisations in a participatory, 'bottom-up' process.
  • Facilitating an enabling environment by sensitizing and fostering a supportive network of stakeholders and propelling local and regional ownership and visibility.
  • Conducting participatory action research and generating an evidence-base on alternative modes of organising and their benefits in terms of agency, participation and access to rights.

The underpinning message of the project is that rights of informal workers must be recognised and their agency facilitated. Workers are agents of change and are better equipped to bring about fundamental improvements in their lives if they are able to organise into democratic, sustainable and representative organisations with self-leadership, and to use these organisations to build collective voice and bargain for their rights with employers, employers' organisations and government stakeholders.

BIICL's role in the project is to provide international and comparative law analysis to support the work of the platforms which will be developed in each of the countries, at the sub-regional level and eventually at the regional level. On the basis of this analysis, BIICL has developed and delivered capacity-building materials and sessions for the platforms and project partners on workers' rights and on the relevant international legal frameworks that enable their protection, including ILO Conventions and UN human rights frameworks.

To date, BIICL's contributions to the work of the project have included:

  • Developing several informational handouts on key labour rights issues, as well as a number of briefing notes on legislative instruments and policy developments.
  • Establishing and running a helpdesk for project partners and representatives of grassroots organizations to raise questions or concerns relevant to issues of international law.
  • Delivering annual training sessions for local grassroots partners and civil society representatives on issues of relevance to the project, including the rights of informal workers in the gig economy and business and human rights.
  • Undertaking an extensive comparative research exercise on challenges, issues and promising practices in the regulation of the gig economy.
  • Co-producing knowledge about workers' rights, violations and organising with local grassroots partners through ongoing communication with those partners and supporting the relaying of that knowledge to power holders.

The methodology includes desk research and legal analysis, consultation with country-specific grassroots partners and with regional or international experts, surveys for mapping the needs and challenges of marginalized worker populations, and participatory action research for evidence-based generation.

One subset of workers of particular interest for the project is those operating in the gig economy, and specifically workers offering services through digital labour platforms. As a result of the difficulties in defining the nature and bounds of the relationship between digital labour platforms and workers and the varied conditions under which they carry out work, gig workers face numerous unique challenges and issues in securing favourable working conditions, realising their rights at work and organising and engaging in collective action. These challenges and issues, as well as the various measures adopted to overcome and address them, are the subject of a research project undertaken by BIICL as part of its contribution to the broader GLP-Power project.

This project is made possible through the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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