IN today’s world, where labour rights and fair wages are at the forefront of many discussions, the importance of labour advocacy cannot be overstated.

For decades, labour unions and workers’ rights organisations have fought tirelessly to establish basic rights and protections for employees, such as the right to fair pay, safe working conditions, and the ability to organise and bargain collectively.

These efforts have not only helped improve the lives of individual workers but have also had a significant impact on society as a whole.

Progressive Retail and Wholesale Workers Union of Zimbabwe (PRWWUZ) general secretary Phillip Mafundu, said their goal is to make sure that employees are treated fairly at workplaces.

He said that his team worked tirelessly to protect and advance the interests of their members and the sector at large. 

He is motivated by the vision of a fair, just, and inclusive society where workers have a voice and a choice in their workplaces and communities.

Mafundu said there are many benefits for workers. From improved wages and benefits to better working conditions and job security, they provide a way for workers to improve their lives and have a say in their workplace.

“Our mandate is to represent workers in the retail and wholesale sector on their labour rights and interest. The union was formed in 2021. And we only got our registration certificate in July 2023.

“Our vision is to be an organisation of excellence, and vibrancy in our work, we would or we wish to be able to represent Wally, in terms of labour issues, the workers in the retail and auto sector.

“Our short term plans at the moment is mainly to make the workers aware of our organisation and what we can do to help their plight.

“And then if the workers are aware of our organisation and know that there is an organisation that can stand for their rights, then, in the long run, the plight of the worker will be improved.

 “Our current membership, it’s still just below 5000. In the retail and wholesale sector, we have membership in the major retail and wholesale shops like TM, OK, Spar, Metro Peach Choppies and then some other members in the small shops. 

We also wish to have members in the small shops, I think they call them tuckshops.

“In tuckshops there’s a lot of unfair labour practices that are happening and the relationship between the employer and the employee sometimes it’s very difficult to then break in and say who would want to represent the employee? I don’t know how to describe it because it even sounds like slavery.

“Small shops are hiring their relatives, their girlfriends So by the end of day, someone’s rights are being abused.

“The main purpose of the Labour Act is to create a harmonious industry. So when we get to a shop, a wholesale retail, and then there are some unfair labour practices that are happening, the first thing that we do is to engage the employee and the employer and try to find and try to find each other and explain what then the law says. So when we fail, we then take these issues to what maybe we call the local tribunals. So this is then where we are facing our major challenges. Now. We have a clear issue, like a clear issue of someone not paid their salary.

“And you take that issue, like for example, I would have taken that issue to the NEC convention in December 2023. And then we’re almost in May. A decision hasn’t been made. Just for a simple issue of just asking, did you pay your salary?

“And then we have a whole organisation made to resolve those issues, taking 3-5 months to resolve that issue. So these are some of the challenges that we’re facing. 

“These systems that we have that are supposed to help us do our work, are not actually helping.

“We call upon the government to look into that, if someone has not been paid their salaries, maybe in a week or two weeks, the solution has to be made, so that someone gets their salary. So, these are then the issues that we face.

“Our agenda mainly is to create harmony, we believe that there should be harmony between employees, employers, and the government. We have had the government coming up with maybe what I would call the mantras out, maybe they’ve come up with strategies to try and resuscitate the economy to try and build the economy. And I’ve always said, if our government wants to build this economy brick by brick, I should also go brick by brick as an employee.

“And obviously, the employer should also grow so we all grow at once. So this is the relationship that we are trying to foster, we believe we can have an economy where every time the government comes up with a policy, and maybe the employees are fighting against that policy, or the government is coming up with policies that are not sustainable maybe to the employers or to the employees, we believe this tripartite thing should work well, we should work in harmony.

“Workers Day, the first of May, is the only day that a worker is remembered. We would want everyone else then to know that they are remembered today. 

“And that’s why we have come up with this programme to just say no guys, let’s just come together. Let’s just have this day. Let’s talk. Let’s map away for it. 

Let’s see what can we do? Let’s see what can we tell our employers? Let’s see what can we do to our government, which makes us move forward together. 

This is this is our main agenda to say we cannot leave the day to just go alone.”

Here are some of the benefits of Progressive Retail and Wholesale Workers Union of Zimbabwe (PRWWUZ)

·   Improved wages and benefits:

·   Better working conditions: they also negotiate with employers to improve working conditions for their members. This can include things like safer working conditions, better equipment and tools, and more reasonable workloads.

· Legal representation: it also provides legal representation for their members. This means that if a worker has a problem with their employer, they can turn to their union for help.

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