ILO workshop highlights importance of cooperatives in creation of decent jobs for waste pickers

Participants at the Workshop on Waste Pickers' Access to Social Security through Cooperatives, 29 July, 2016
A joint workshop by the ILO Office for Turkey and the Ministry of Customs and Trade General Directorate of Cooperatives, held in Ankara, underlined the role of cooperatives in gathering waste pickers under the same roof to ensure their access to decent and formal work.

The ILO Office for Turkey and the Ministry of Customs and Trade General Directorate of Cooperatives organized a “Workshop on Waste Pickers’ Access to Social Security through Cooperatives” on 29 July 2016 at the ILO premises in Ankara.

Members of the Association of Street Waste Pickers as well as representatives from relevant ministries, several municipalities and trade unions were among the participants in the event.

Arif Sami Seymenoğlu, Director-General of Cooperatives, addressed the problems that waste pickers encounter. He emphasized the need for gathering waste pickers under the same roof of cooperatives in order to create decent work opportunities and to eliminate informal work. He also drew attention to the need for future cooperation between local administration and relevant institutions in order to enhance the living conditions of waste pickers.

Simel Esim, Head of the Cooperatives Unit at the ILO, mentioned the advances and organizational processes of waste pickers in other countries and informed the participants about the benefits that the cooperative model offers for waste pickers.

“At the ILO, it is our observation that cooperatives can represent waste pickers who are not represented by any organization,” Esim said, pointing to the strong potential of cooperatives in advancing toward decent work with better conditions and social protection.

Ozan Cakmak, Policy and Partnerships Officer at the ILO Office for Turkey, noted that cooperatives of waste pickers can play a crucial role in promoting green jobs and sustainable development in Turkey as waste management is one of the eight key sectors, with the potential for creating decent and green jobs in the world.

Recep Karaman, Head of the Association of Street Waste Pickers, stated the problems they faced as street waste pickers through their experiences in Ankara and brought some recommendations toward solving these problems such as the need for establishing regulations that are inclusive of waste pickers, recognizing waste pickers as a part of the waste management system and providing occupational trainings to waste pickers. As stated by representatives of the Association, waste pickers want to be visible and respected in the labour market through recognition of their role in the society and their status as workers. Given that informality is the main feature of this work, waste pickers work without social security, right to freedom of association and under poor and unhealthy working conditions including long working hours. Child labour, discrimination and exclusion from the society are also other dimensions of the challenges that waster pickers face.

In conclusion, the participants agreed on the need for a roadmap in addressing the problems of waste pickers and in creating decent job opportunities for them. This step will also enable cooperatives and the formal recycling system to cooperate for social inclusion, on the basis of decent job principles, according to the participants.