Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Tanzania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Tanzania, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cac532.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 41,500,000
Capital: Dodoma
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

It is very difficult for trade unions to negotiate with their employers. Strike calls remain numerous but the procedure is very complex and strikes are often declared illegal. In Zanzibar, strikes are illegal and banned.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of organisation – excessive power of Registrar: The Trade Unions Act allows workers to form trade unions but contains several restrictions on trade union rights. Trade unions must have at least 20 members to register, and unions must register within six months of being established. Those that fail to do so are subject to (unspecified) sanctions.

A union has to provide the Registrar with annual lists of its membership and financial audits, and the Registrar can suspend a union if public security or public order are endangered. Trade union affiliation to other organisations can be annulled if it was obtained without government approval or if the union is considered to be an organisation whose remit is broader than just employer-worker relations.

The government also prescribes the terms of office of trade unionists. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines and/or imprisonment. In any given trade union, only one union leader may be employed full-time to carry out trade union functions; all others must work full-time in the enterprise or industrial sector in which they have been elected.

Collective bargaining: Collective bargaining is recognised in law. Collective agreements must be submitted to the Industrial Court for approval and may be refused registration if they do not conform to the government's economic policy.

Collective bargaining forbidden in the public service: According to the 2002 Public Service (Negotiating Machinery) Bill, workers in the public services do not have the right to collective bargaining. In addition, the government sets wages for employees of the government and state-owned organisations. There is also a minimum membership requirement of 30 people for a union to be registered, excessive by international standards. It prevents strikes by "staff grade officers", which include heads of public learning institutions. A system of compulsory arbitration at the authorities' discretion decides conditions and terms for public service employees. This effectively amounts to a strike ban.

Right to strike: In 2007 the amended Employment and Labour Relations Act (Code of Good Practice Rules) was adopted, establishing fuller guidelines for the implementation of the main ELRA. Strike action is permissible as a measure of last resort in the case of conflicts of interest, whilst rights-based disputes are referred to the labour court. There is a prior 30-day mediation period and requirement for a strike ballot before lawful strike action may be taken. Secondary strike action is allowed provided that the primary action is lawful, there is a relationship between the primary and secondary employer and the secondary action is proportional; a 14-day notice period is required for secondary action.

The law does not protect those taking part in legal strikes from retribution. Strikes are forbidden if the government considers they endanger the life and health of the population, and the law has now broadened the category to cover almost 50% of all services, including fire fighting, civil aviation, telecommunications, health services and associated laboratory services and electricity. Strikes in other sectors may be either temporarily or permanently banned after a complicated investigation process.

Zanzibar and Pemba: The Zanzibar government enforces legislation specific to the Zanzibar and Pemba islands. Legislation applies solely to the private sector and does not protect workers against anti-union discrimination.

Greater restrictions in Zanzibar: There are far greater restrictions on trade union rights in Zanzibar than in the rest of the country. There is a minimum membership requirement of 50 people before registration can go ahead and the Registrar has considerable powers to restrict registration, for example, if s/he does not agree with the union's provisions. Trade union officers must have a sufficiently high literacy level. The High Court can interfere in trade union affairs by appointing the Registrar to act as a trade union liquidator.

The law prohibits all workers from going on strike.

There are three export processing zones (EPZ) on the mainland, where working conditions are comparable to those outside the zones. There are two EPZs on Zanzibar, where there were unconfirmed reports of trade union rights violations.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The Labour Ministry has called on employers to take a more conciliatory attitude towards trade unions, to allow them to organise and to bargain with them in order to maintain social peace, to avoid unnecessary strikes, improve working conditions and to aim at more ambitious economic objectives. The same ministry has announced its intention of undertaking a "massive hunt of migrant workers employed in many sectors without following the legal procedures".

Privatisation – workers' rights ignored: Employees in the privatised industries are denied freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, despite very difficult working conditions. There are reports that some employers were deducting union dues from workers' pay but were remitting them to the unions only after long delays if at all.

Difficulties in organising legal strikes: Workers tend to stage illegal wildcat strikes and walkouts because of the lengthy and cumbersome requirements for calling a legal strike. In October, after endless and fruitless legal proceedings by the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU), teachers began selective strikes. On 14 October, after a court judgement banning them, angry teachers turned against TTU leaders. In the banking sector, a strike by 2,000 employees of the National Microfinance Bank was also judged illegal by a labour tribunal. The employer immediately threatened the leaders of the Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (RUICO) with disciplinary measures against strikers refusing to return to work. Railway workers fared no better in the courts.

Fish processing plant workers locked in during an official visit: According to certain sources, workers in a fish processing factory in the Mara region were locked in a room by their employer during a visit by Vice-President Ali Mohamed Shein. This was done to prevent workers taking advantage of the arrival of this senior government official to formulate their complaints. They work in a rough environment and suffer frequent aggressive behaviour from their superiors. Most have been working for years on temporary contracts and are threatened with dismissal if they complain to management.

350 strikers dismissed in the textile sector: In February, 350 striking workers at the Sunflag textile factory were dismissed. They were protesting at the fact that the wage increases granted by their employer were way below those proposed by the government. Later around a hundred workers were rehired at another company production site.

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