Organization & Representation Programme

Worker representatives at the 2019 ILC in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Sofia Trevino

WIEGO’s Organization & Representation Programme (ORP) supports organizations of workers in the informal economy to build their organizational and leadership capacity, and to connect and align with allies as they fight to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of their members.

Stronger Organizations Give Workers Voice and Representation

Membership based organizations of informal workers vary in shape and form. Some take the form of traditional trade unions, some are associations, and some are cooperatives. Membership and collective voice are the common denominators. Read more

A collective voice is key to improving the income, working conditions and status of workers in informal employment — especially women — whose voices are often not heard by those who make decisions that affect their lives. Through strong, democratic membership-based organizations (MBOs) that are created and led by workers, they gain the knowledge, skills, confidence, and solidarity to change this. Together, they fight for their rights as workers, including the right to legal and social protection, financial services, and for access to resources such as land and urban space. Most importantly, collective voice and organization are preconditions for asserting the right of recognition as a negotiating partner to achieve these changes. 


The Organization and Representation Programme (ORP) supports the creation and development of membership-based organizations of workers in informal employment at all levels, including international networks. The programme also facilitates the strengthening of strategic linkages with trade union and cooperative movements, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other important global institutions. Through research and workers’ education, ORP supports membership-based organizations of workers in the informal economy to gain the necessary confidence and skills, including collective bargaining, to be effective in achieving their goals.


Strengthening Organizations, Building Networks

Domestic worker representatives at the IDWF Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, 2018. Credit: J Fish
Photo: Domestic worker representatives at the IDWF Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, 2018. Credit: J Fish

As small, localized associations are uniting into larger alliances, organizations and networks in cities, countries, regions and internationally, we play a role in supporting and facilitating these developments, by providing capacity-building and technical support. Read more about Organizing and Organizations

Domestic Workers: ORP, together with the Law Programme,  provides ongoing support to the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) as it coordinates with national and regional organizers to see the international ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189) ratified and implemented in countries around the globe. A toolkit to support this work has jointly been developed by WIEGO and IDWF. ORP also offers technical support and training to national and regional domestic workers’ organizations, including on leadership development and collective bargaining. Read more

Home-Based Workers: In February 2021, supported by ORP, home-based workers organizations launched a new global network. HomeNet International (HNI) brings together membership-based organizations of home-based workers from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and South-East Asia. By organizing globally, home-based workers are better placed to respond to common challenges, raise the visibility of home-based workers, and provide a strong representative voice on global platforms. Read more

ORP offers ongoing organizational development and capacity-building assistance to the regional networks – HomeNet South Asia, HomeNet Southeast Asia, COTRADO-ALAC in Latin America, and the Africa Regional network, as well as to national networks of home-based worker organizations. 

ORP works to support home-based worker organizations whose members are subcontracted homeworkers to achieve the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 177 concerning Home Work. Where these sub-contracted workers are working in garment global supply chains, ORP works closely with the Law Programme and HomeNet International to achieve the recognition of homeworkers by the brands dominating the global market. A Platform of Demands adopted by home-based worker organizations in 2016 guides this work. 

While WIEGO does not specialize in Fair Trade market networking for self-employed home-based workers, ORP does provide some training to home-based workers in leadership and business skills.    

Street Vendors: StreetNet International (SNI) was established in 2002. ORP supports the organizational development and worker education activities of SNI and its affiliates on request. In particular, ORP supports street and market vendor organizations in their struggles against harassment and for the provision of infrastructural and regulatory support from the authorities. DO NO HARM has become the watchword of such struggles. 

ORP provides training on strategies to achieve the implementation of ILO Recommendation 204 on the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy in ways that are fair to street and market vendors. Training in collective bargaining forms part of this, as does training in Administrative Justice, a pillar of WIEGO work led by the Law Programme.

Waste Pickers: ORP supports the global networking of waste pickers/recycler organizations through the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. As part of this process, WIEGO hosts a website dedicated to news from grassroots waste picker groups: In 2020, discussions between the participating organizations of the Alliance resumed on the question of adopting a formal constitution of a global organization.

ORP also supports the development of local MBOs and national networks, including intensive projects supporting the integration of waste pickers into solid waste management systems in key cities such as Bogota, Colombia and Johannesburg, South Africa. Key to such integration is the recognition of waste pickers as service providers and compensation for their environmental contribution. Read more

Waste picker integration work is also conducted under ORP’s Reducing Waste in Coastal Cities project in the cities of Accra (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Mangalore (India), where there is an additional focus on the contribution of waste pickers and their organizations to reducing ocean pollution.  

ORP supports waste picker organizations to develop common policy positions and represent themselves in global forums, including the annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP). Read more

Vendor representatives at the StreetNet International 6th Congress in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Credit: B Marie
Photo: Vendor representatives at the StreetNet International 6th Congress in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan. Credit: B Marie

Promote Linkages to the Trade Union and Co-operative Movements

ORP provides technical and strategic support for promoting the organization and representation of workers in informal employment within the international and national trade union and cooperative movements. 

The trade union movement has recognized the need for workers in informal employment to organize. In some cases, new unions of workers are being formed, or workers are joining existing unions. WIEGO works with organizations of workers in informal employment to help them build on, strengthen and sustain these positive developments. 

WIEGO is an associate member of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and works closely with the ILO’s cooperative unit COOP. 

Read more

Blog: A Union for All: Dar es Salaam’s Mchikichini market vendors join hands with formal workers in model solidarity.

2017 report on new organising strategies by trade unions and other forms of worker organizations that are emerging in the face of the growing informalisation and fragmentation of work.

An IDWF representative at the 2019 ILC in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Sofia Trevino.
Photo: An IDWF representative at the 2019 ILC in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Sofia Trevino.

Global Advocacy

ORP works to support membership-based organizations in the development of common platforms of demands to present at international forums, thereby bringing the voices of workers in informal employment to the world stage. 

For 25 years, WIEGO and its allies have helped workers voice their issues at the International Labour Conference (ILC)—which influenced the creation of international instruments that can improve their lives and livelihoods. 

WIEGO and its partners create common platforms of demand to amplify the voices of workers in informal employment during and after the ILC. Read more: 7 winning strategies that influenced the ILC agenda.

  • Position paper on Extending Social Protection to Women and Men in the Informal Economy – ILC 2021
  • Briefing note on Violence and Informal Work - published 2018
  • Platform of demands for Decent Work for Homeworkers in global supply chains - adopted 2016
  • Platform of demands for Recommendation 204, Concerning the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy – adopted in 2015 
  • WIEGO supported the platform of demands for the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) for the negotiations of C-189 in 2010
  • WIEGO supported the writing of Myths and Realities about domestic workers with IDWN, which was produced for the 2011 negotiations of C-189

Organizing and Collective Bargaining

Collective Bargaining is usually understood as taking place between an employer and employees to achieve a collective agreement, primarily around wages and working conditions.

However, workers in the informal economy engage in forms of collective bargaining through their membership-based organizations (MBOS) with a variety of entities who are not "employers". Street vendors most often negotiate with local authorities and with different municipal officials regarding space, fees, harassment and confiscation of goods. Waste pickers negotiate with local authorities for storage and sorting facilities or, more ambitiously, for the right to provide collection and recycling services for which they are paid. Many need to negotiate with buyers for better prices for recyclables.

Unlike workers in the formal economy whose rights are found in labour statutes, most informal workers do not have statutory collective bargaining rights. While the right has been acknowledged by the ILO, including for own account workers, it has not generally been extended to these workers.

ORP supports informal economy worker organizations to develop strategies for collective bargaining that are appropriate to their circumstances. The goal is for organizations to move beyond the ad hoc engagements, and to enter into formal enforceable negotiated agreements with their identified counterparts. ORP provides training in the skill of collective bargaining in order to achieve such agreements. Find resources here.

See the Organizing Briefs section of WIEGO’s Publication Series for more.

Capacity Building and Training Materials for Workers Organizations

WIEGO helps build the organizational and management capacity of its members/partners and develop worker education materials and skills on organizing informal workers and policy issues. To access these materials, see Worker Education and Capacity Building Resources.

Organization & Representation Team

Jane Barrett
Director, Organization & Representation

Karin Pape
Deputy Director, Organization & Representation

Vanessa Pillay
Programme coordinator for Africa 

Laura Morillo
Programme Officer (home-based workers), Latin America

Federico Parra
Regional Coordinator, Waste Pickers Latin America

Lucia Fernandez
Waste Picker Global Coordinator 

Taylor Cass Talbott
Reducing Waste in Coastal Cities Project Officer

Katia Araujo
Programme Advisor (Home-based Workers)

Amira el-Halabi
Africa Waste Picker Coordinator

Top photo: Worker representatives at the 2019 ILC in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Sofia Trevino
Informal Economy Theme