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UNI Global Union affiliate, the Kenya Union of Commercial, Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW), organized over 500 new members in just six days in May, including 370 workers at Carrefour Supermarket and 156 new members from Kenyan retailer, Healthy U 2000.

The team of 11 organizers and two coordinators held a series of organizing meetings with retail workers in the capital Nairobi, as well as Mombasa and Kisumu, in the blitz campaign.

KUCFAW is part of a long-term UNI Africa project to improve working conditions, empower women and create safe workplaces in the commerce, ICTS, finance and private security sectors in Ghana, Kenya, and Mozambique, supported by Finnish solidarity support organization, SASK, as well as UNI’s Finnish affiliates PAM and Pro.

“This success has not happened overnight and is down to building the skills of our organizers who have put in hours upon hours of groundwork to map stores around the country, listen to workers’ demands and produce materials to drive organizing campaigns,” said Boniface Kavuvi, KUCFAW General Secretary. “We could have recruited more members but many workers were unable to attend the organizing meetings due to the week’s torrential rains and flooding, underlining how climate change is impacting workers and unions.”

KUCFAW has now organized 540 members at Carrefour out of a possible 1,800, and expects to recruit more workers in the coming weeks in order to cross the 50 per cent + 1 threshold needed for company recognition.

“The UNI-SASK project has really helped the union in terms of technical support. We have changed strategy and can now organize larger meetings with workers where they can learn about the union and sign up straight away,” said Caleb Nyamwaro, Branch Secretary and coordinator for the UNI-SASK project.

KUCFAW organizers

As a result of the project, the union has been able to reach out to workers at a new employer, Healthy U 2000, a health product retailer with around twenty stores – often in the same malls where Carrefour is based.

“Our organizers are now more equipped with the knowledge on how to engage the workers with the view to have them join the union. So, we have moved ahead in terms of density and capacity building,” added Caleb. “We have also been able to train workers on collective bargaining on issues of gender and parental rights, as well as how to manage issues at the workplace.”

UNI’s global agreement with the French multinational retailer, Carrefour, which also covers the company’s franchises in Kenya, has been invaluable in helping workers organize, says Caleb:

“The global framework agreement has helped so much because I’m able to read it to Carrefour managers so that they allow the workers to attend organizing meetings. The workers also understand that Carrefour has made a global commitment which allows them to engage with the union and exercise their right to freedom of association, no matter where they open-up shop.”

The union now intends to hold shop steward elections at Carrefour and Healthy U 2000 with equal participation from women so that gender equality policies are promoted and included in collective bargaining.

Lilian, Chandarana cashier and KUCFAW shopsteward

Lilian, a 27-year-old cashier and KUCFAW shop steward at Chandarana supermarket, has attended three workshops on organizing, collective bargaining and gender equality as part of the UNI-SASK project.

“I’m a champion of organizing and it’s all because of the training I received at KUCFAW. The workshops have contributed to me being a better shop steward and being re-elected,” said Lilian. “I’m eager now to negotiate the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement].  When I see the CBA, I see that all the signatures are by men, but this year I want to be one of two or even three women at the table. We need a more balanced CBA that includes issues important to women. And we can only do this if we have greater women’s representation.”

In the past year, KUCFAW has concluded seven new collective agreements, which have improved workers’ terms and conditions, including wage increases, formal and fair disciplinary mechanisms, and better health and safety provisions, among other gains.

UNI Africa Regional Secretary, Keith Jacobs, said:

“It is fantastic to see our project with SASK making such an impact on the ground in Kenya. It’s also gratifying to see how our global agreement with Carrefour is being used to support worker rights and build union power further. Ultimately, these efforts are going to make a big difference to workers’ every day lives in terms of better salaries, safer workplaces and gender equality.”





UNI Africa