The GFA magic
Renewed strategy and tactics
In some stores, we’d sneak in advice on some pressing issues from the floor. Workers lacked basic information. For instance, the stipulations for sick leave. Only a registered medical practitioner could book you off for days, and not a nurse. Such advice impressed the managers and they warmed to the idea of a union.
In the stores we visited, a union member or a shop steward assisted us. Where we didn’t have people we made sure to establish contact before the visit. We’d stay up late reviewing the progress of our new strategy, and by 3 AM I’d be on the road to another meeting. Our campaign slogan was ‘Everyone Join. Every One Form Counts’. When workers heard that the GFA is widely recognised, they started signing up. Often, I’d leave meetings with signed forms. And my president led by example – she clinched 100% membership at her branch. We encouraged new members to recruit in their stores. Soon, everyone had caught the ‘bug’.
As the new and young person in the union, I was the official face of the recruitment campaign. I resonated with part-timers who are mostly young. They felt they were represented in the union. My general secretary accompanied me to validate our campaign message. Everyone at SCAWU pulled their weight. The workers needed to see solidarity and commitment. Too often they’d been disappointed by ‘briefcase unions’. SCAWU’s campaign communication emphasised the benefits of joining a union.
So near yet so far
In December, we’d grown our membership by over 70%. But due to delays at the Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Committee, we lost a big number of PPTs at the beginning of 2018. Some workers joined other companies and others returned to school. That meant we had to put even more effort.
Our win was because of the GFA, our hard work and support from the Shoprite Alliance Network. Signing both the Memorandum of Agreement and Recognition Agreement was very emotional for us.
After the euphoria, the real work for us has just begun.