‘Organizing’ in the

changing world of work
Issues and Strategies
Arun Kumar, Actrav-ILO-Turin

ajymif;vJaeaom tvkyt
f udik Ef iS hyf wfouf
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udp&P yfrsm; ESifh enf;AsL[m
Arun Kumar, Actrav-ILO-Turin

Organizing – one of the main ways for unions to promote Decent
Work & Social Protection for workers
But its a task made very difficult in this period of flexible and
insecure employment where neither labour laws, nor labour
markets or employment conditions are favourably placed for
promoting organizing;
And in case of Burmese workers, the situation is even more

So, what can FTUB and its unions do?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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jrefrmEdik if o
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f rm;or*~rsm; tzGJ@csKyf ESifh 4if;tzGJ@0ifor*~rsm;taejzifh bmrsm;
vkyaf qmifEidk yf govJ?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


How do trade unions Organize? 
Strategies will depend on – 
Country legal framework (what rights exist?) 
Type of industry and state of the industry 
Nature of employment, types of workers (self    

employed/wage employed/home based/ contract/etc
Union Strategy & Structure?
Union resources (financial, material & people)
Image and status of the TUs
What else ? 

No ready made solutions, no single model;
Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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f rm;rsm;. taetxm;ykpH H (rdrb
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f m;cpm; tvkyo
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f rm;or*~&Sd aiGa=u;/ ypPn;f ESifh vltiftm;
f rm;or*~ *k%jf 'yfEiS fh taetxm;
tjcm;bmrsm; use&f ySd gao;ovJ ?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Facing the Organizing Challenge
Broadly speaking, TU Actions need to be taken at
two levels  Macro policy level – to create enabling
environment for organizing 
In the field, at workplace, at community level –
where the workers are

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Creating enabling environment 
What are the main demands of trade unions in
your country? 

Campaigns at national level on issues such as – 
Freedom of Association (Right to Organise, to Union
Recognition) & Collective Bargaining Rights (ILO
Conventions 87 & 98)  Tripartitism – right to be represented in the decision making
bodies at Govt level 
Domestic social clause 
Building partnerships with other movements 

What else does Unions need to do?
Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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f aetxm;udk zefw;D jcif;  

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H iG f tvkyo
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f rm;or*~taejzifh aemufxyfbmrsm; vky&f ef vdt
k yfygao;vnf;?
Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing Actions at Workplace
Questions to be considered 
Why should a worker join the union? What can union give
them in this age of flexible employment? 
Where is our power in a market economy? in numbers or ? 
How have we been organizing so far? 
What new strategies can we develop for organizing and
strengthening TUs?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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enf;AsL[mtopfrsm;udk xyfrH wd;k csJ@+yD;yg+yDvJ?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Union Approaches
Servicing Model 
Union/union officials provide collective & individual services
to members; 
Members dependent on the Union & its Office bearers to
provide what they require. 
Unions’ officials control union resources, strategies, interests
& develop union tactics

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


f rm;or*~ csO;f uyfrr_ sm;
f rm;or*~/ tvkyo
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tzGJ@0ifrsm;twGuf 0efaqmifra_ y;onf?
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tzGJ@0if wd;k yGm;vma&;twGuf vkyaf qmiftaumiftxnfaz:r_wiG f yg0ifjcif;
d yS g?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Union Approaches
Organizing Model 
Not just an approach to organizing but also a vision of union
purpose & form - workers active participants rather than
passive consumers, 
Instead of just solving problems, union seeks to empower
workers to solve their problems thru union 
Organizing – motivated thru activism & self-help among
Education, research or communication activities; 
Develop campaigns, alliances & use members to support
external organizing
Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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rsm;ESifh tzGJ@0ifrsm;udk tok;H jyKonf?

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


workers: what are
unions doing?
Some ideas

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f rm;or*~rsm;rS bmrsm;
G af eygovJ

Organizing Strategies

TU resources limited - We cannot go out & organize
each & every worker. SO, can we then think of a way to
make workers come to us?


Need to go beyond wage bargaining – into social welfare
- linking with govt schemes for providing access to
workers for social welfare programmes
- Using group insurance schemes to provide social
protection - health care, life insurance
- Organizing thru thrift, credit and social welfare services

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing Strategies

Leveraging power of the ‘organised’- Eg. Railway unions
extending their reach to hawkers, coolies, contractors
workers, etc


For MNCs and those companies with Export interests in
OECD countries – companies that are susceptible to
consumer power – build links with international TUs
(GUFs), NGOs and consumer movement.


Role of international labour solidarity & International
Framework Agreements


Organizing not at workplace but at workers living areas –
role of self help groups

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing Migrant Workers
Suggested Strategies    

Advocate for universal labour rights – abolish distinctions for
temporary workers (delinking workers rights from nationality/
Working at community level, Self-help groups – building
leadership among migrants
Needs of Migrant workers? Set up Welfare & Service
centres– health care & workers rights services – help lines
TU Education and Rights Awareness Activities

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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f rm;or*~ ynma&;ESifh tcGit
fh a&;qdik &f m todtjrifE;kd =um;ap&ef vkyaf qmifrr_ sm;

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing thru SHGs & Cooperatives
relevant for informal economy workers, self employed and
home based workers.
builds workers own leadership and self reliance; brings in new
activists into the labour movement,
successfully used by the NGOs but not trade unions.

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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twGi;f odk@ a&mufvmatmif qGJaqmifjcif;/

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing Strategies 

Using Workers Capital to promote Union Rights and other
labour standards
– Labour Social Clause in the Investment Pattern
- Need to think beyond Rate of Interest.

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Organizing Strategies 

Adopt & advocate policies that will apply to all
workers and prevent further divisions of the workers
in the labour market – that is, put all workers in one

Equal Pay campaign 

And – what else can TUs do ???

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


pnf;&k;H a&;enf;AsL[mrsm; 

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tqdjk yKaxmufcjH cif;/ Todk@tm;jzifh tvkyo
f rm;rsm;tm;vk;H onf wavSxJp;D wc&D;xJomG ;

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


Group Work     

What are the hurdles/difficulties in organizing
Burmese workers – inside & Outside Burma?
Give examples of how you organize in current
What are the reasons for young people &/or
migrant workers not being keen to join the unions?
What services or benefits does the union
membership bring to a member?
How can

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma


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f rm;or*~tzGJ@0if jzpfvmap&ef
twGuf vkyaf qmifygovJ/
Jh dk@ vkyEf idk yf govJ/

Federation of Trade UnionsBurma