IFWEA, together with FES TUCC, are supporting global union federation UNI Africa in a series of webinars on Collective Bargaining in the African Retail Sector during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

This webinar series seeks to address the need to hear grassroots voices in the retail sector and for retail trade unions in Africa to build solidarity during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, through sharing their experiences, developing new strategies and building regional solidarity.

It involves shop steward negotiators from trade unions on the continent that belong to various UNI Africa Trade Union Alliances which actively organise and represent retail workers. It will be held in English, French and Portuguese, on the platform Zoom.

The first webinar took place on 21 October 2020, and will be followed by events on the 4, 18 and 22 of November 2020.

New challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge health problem for societies across the globe. Efforts to curb the spread of the disease included the shutting down of social and economic activities to different degrees. During such lockdowns, retail workers are deemed essential workers and are allowed to work.

However, they experience numerous challenges that required instant engagement with employers and government such as: lack of adequate provision of PPE, forced unpaid leave for certain workers, inadequate testing and quarantine facilities, inadequate sick leave provisions for workers who get infected, lack of safe transport to and from work, inadequate medical aid cover and failure to pay employees decent wages that include adequate compensation for the risks they take to make goods and services available to the public during the pandemic. These challenges brought about by the pandemic are new and were not addressed in prior collective bargaining agreements or laws and regulations applicable to retail workers.

The topics covered by the webinar series are:

Topic 1: Consensus in the time of coronavirus

Date: Wednesday 21 October 2020, 11h00 – 12h30

This webinar will explore negotiation processes and outcomes in the retail sector since the coronavirus was declared an epidemic. Highlights of what retail trade unions have achieved, lessons learnt and how to share these lessons to build trade union solidarity will be the focus of this webinar.

Topic 2: Negotiating Retrenchments: Fighting for job security in the time of Covid-19

Date: Wednesday 4 November 2020, 11h00 – 12h30

This webinar will explore how trade unions in the retail sector negotiated retrenchments by retail companies. The impact of retrenchments on trade unions and strategies to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on job security will be the focus of this webinar

Topic 3: Occupational Health and Safety during the coronavirus pandemic

Date: Wednesday 18 November 2020 11h00 – 12h30

This webinar will explore how trade unions in the retail sector negotiated occupational health and safety since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the lessons for improving occupational health and safety agreements and laws. Strategies to overcome the resistance and neglect of employers to put in place best practice occupational health and safety measures will be the focus of this webinar.

Topic 4: Africa Europe Trade Union Dialogue: What lessons can be drawn from the retail trade unions in Germany for Africa.

Date: Wednesday 22  November 2020 11h00 – 12h30

This webinar will provide African trade unions the chance to hear first-hand from unionists in Germany about the challenges they encountered and what strategies they developed to protect workers in the retail sector during the coronavirus pandemic. Lessons for Africa will be drawn and concrete steps identified to build long term solidarity on the continent and globally.

Each webinar follows the following two hour programme

  • Moderator Introduction and Welcome by UNI Africa (5 minutes)
  • Labour Expert Presenter: Dr. Jacob Omolo (10-15 minutes)
  • Voices from Below: 3 Shop Steward Negotiators (5 minutes each)
  • Questions and Discussions (30-35 minutes)
  • Final Words from Presenters/Unions (10 min)
  • Sum Up Way Forward: UNI Africa (Keith 4 min)
  • Closing Remarks from FES TUCC (Bastian/Bethuel 4 minutes)
  • Facilitator: Thanks (2 min)
  • Education Session: There will be a 30 minute participatory education exercise after the webinar to improve digital communication skills and methods for collective bargaining for the unions in the UNI retail alliances.