Legal and Advocacy Strategies to Ensure Workers' Rights in the Informal Economy

Webinar March 2021 Law Programme
31 March 2021 - 20 December 2021

WIEGO’s Law Programme and the International Network for Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) are presenting a multi-part series of webinars and workshops focused on strategic and creative litigation and advocacy strategies to enhance, protect and help realize the labour and collective rights of workers in the informal economy, including self-employed workers. 

The series will run throughout 2021, culminating in workshops with interested lawyers, partners and workers to proactively implement lessons learned from these webinars through litigation and advocacy. Also, the ILAW Network plans to focus its Winter 2022 Global Labour Rights Reporter on workers in the informal economy.

Strategic Litigation for Recognition of Employee Status: Waste Pickers and Domestic Workers

The latest webinar was held on May 20. It focused on two occupational groups’ fight for recognition as employees: domestic workers (in South Africa) and waste pickers (in Colombia). One of the biggest challenges in ensuring rights for informal workers is legal recognition of their status as workers.

Panelists – Federico Parra, Javier Francisco Arenas, Thulani Nkosi and Ziona Tanzer (with Aminta Ossom facilitating) – looked at how worker organizations and their lawyers have used courts and advocacy strategies to fight for their recognition as employees. The webinar engaged with the advocacy strategies, jurisprudence and legislative amendments that followed from the Mahlangu and Another v Minister of Labour and Others case in South Africa and the orders of compliance with Judgment T-724 of 2003, Asociación de Recicladores de Bogotá (ARB) against the Capital District of Bogotá, in Colombia (Auto (Pronouncement) 268 of 2010; Auto (pronouncement) 275 of 2011; Auto (pronouncement) 587 of 2015).

Webinar 2: Strategic Litigation for Recognition of Employee Status: Waste Pickers and Domestic Workers

The first webinar in the series, held on March 31, introduced the diverse and vibrant informal economy to labour lawyers to enable a better understanding of the key debates on formalization. It also explained what lawyers and workers' organizations are doing to support informal workers. Speakers were: 

  • Pamhidzai Bamu, who analyzed the different employment statuses and occupational groups that form part of the informal economy. She discussed waged employment and self-employment, and legal strategies to extend labour rights, including collective bargaining.
  • Marlese von Broembsen discussed ILO Recommendation 204 concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy and its potential for realizing self-employed workers' right to collective bargaining. She explained various regulatory and contractual strategies that street vendors have pursued in different countries.
  • Jacqueline Wamai from ILAW discussed how lawyers, informal-economy worker organizations and unions have challenged legal frameworks that exclude informal workers from rights and protections.

Webinar 1: Introduction to the Informal Economy for Labour Lawyers


Informal Economy Theme
Informal Economy Topic