A new UNI Africa multi-year project to improve the working conditions and wages of workers employed in the retail sector in Nigeria and Uganda and bring more women and young workers into union structures has launched this month.
The project aims to build collective bargaining power through organizing more members and empower women and young workers to participate in trade unions and bargaining negotiations. It also sets out to raise awareness on occupational health and safety in the workplace and promote the election of health and safety committees.
“We’re delighted to embark on this extensive project and determined to expand our membership further, improve health and safety in the Ugandan retail sector, and promote greater participation for women and young workers in our union,” said Moses R. Mauku, General Secretary of HTS Union of Uganda at a meeting to launch the initiative. “By building our union strength, we will be able to better bargain for our members and the issues they care about.”
The programme, which is being supported by Swedish donor Union to Union, in partnership with UNI’s Swedish commerce affiliate, Handels, runs until the end of 2027.
“Even though the context and situation are different, it’s striking that there are always shared struggles, threats and issues that are not bound by borders,” said Josefin Lundmark, International Secretary at Handels. “This ambitious project in Nigeria and Uganda is particularly exciting because most of our membership are women and many are below the age of 35, so the focus on these groups – and increasing their participation in union structures – is important for us. We look forward to seeing the project develop over the next few years and make a real difference to workers’ lives and working conditions.”
It is the first time that UNI Africa is working commerce unions in Nigeria, where much of the sector is informal.
“By organizing more formal workers in Nigeria, we will have the power and solidarity to reach out to informal workers as well,” said UNI Africa Regional Secretary, Keith Jacobs. “In Uganda, our work with HTS union helped to seal the first collective agreement at Carrefour in the country. Now, with this new project we want to expand our organizing into other supermarkets, especially as global operators move into the market.”
“The focus on gender equality is strong for this project and we hope that it will help break down the barriers for women getting to the top of union structures,” added Jacobs.” Occupational health and safety is another key issue and workers are exposed to many hazards, which is something we are determined to redress.”
The project will be implemented through a mix of workshops on organizing, collective bargaining, and gender equality workshops for men. It will also incorporate UNI Equal Opportunities mentoring programmes as well as training on parental rights. Unions in Nigeria and Uganda will conduct meetings to raise awareness of OHS, carry out risk assessment at retail stories and to oversee elections of OHS committees at the workplace.