The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) is a section 21, non-profit organisation registered with the Department of Labour in South Africa. The union is a corporate body having perpetual succession and legal existence and have a constitution. It is an affiliate of the labour federation Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and even played a leading role in the establishment thereof.
The union’s core functions is recruiting and servicing its members and bargaining with employers over labour matters on its members’ behalf.
FAWU was established under the name Food and Canning Workers’ Union (FCWU) in 1941 in the Western Cape by the late Ray Alexander Simons, an immigrant from Latvia, Russia and passionate communist. She arrived in the country (Cape Town) in 1929 and started to organise the mainly black workers in the Cape Peninsula. Ray was adamant that workers and in particular women, should organise themselves to unite and to protect workers’ rights. The FCWU spread through the fruit canning industry of the Boland and up the west coast among fishing communities. It gained the reputations of being both effective and militant while recruiting workers from both sexes. By the beginning of 1945 the FCWU obtained a Wage Determination for the fish canning industry, which gave these workers higher wages and better working conditions. FAWU has had and continues to have many successes under its belt .
FAWU has always been known for its strong emphasis on equality between men and women and has produced highly respected trade unionists and political figures such as Elizabeth “Nanna” Abrahams, Elizabeth “Rocky” Mafikeng, Oscar Mpetha, Chris Dlamini and Jay Naidoo during the struggle for liberation.
The head office is based in Gugulethu in Cape Town. The union has a satellite head office in Johannesburg from which the union’s bargaining unit function. FAWU has an office in each of South Africa’ 8 provinces with smaller branch offices in rural areas to increase access to it by members -particularly, farm workers. The union employs about 150 employees.