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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Tanzania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Tanzania, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
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: 40,400,000
Capital: Dodoma
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The numerous privatisations, restructuring exercises and staffing reductions of recent years have weakened trade union rights. The Canadian mining group Barrick sacked around 1,000 strikers.

Trade union rights in law

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.

Right to strike and collective bargaining severely restricted: In 2007 the Employment and Labour Relations (Code of Good Practice Rules) were adopted establishing more complete guidelines for the implementation of the principal ELRA. Strike action is permissible as a measure of last resort in the case of interests disputes, 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.

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.

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 he or she 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 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 2007

Background: Despite the great poverty of the majority of its population, as an emerging democracy within the crisis-ridden Great Lakes Region Tanzania provides asylum to hundreds of thousands of refugees. Some of the latter are likely to be repatriated under the auspices of the HCR, however tens of thousands of "illegal migrants" have reportedly also been expelled by the authorities.

Privatisation – workers' rights ignored: Employees in the privatised industries are denied freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and face long hours, compulsory night shifts, job insecurity, low pay and forced overtime. There are reports that some employers were deducting union dues from workers' pay but were either sending it to the unions after long delays or simply keeping hold of the money.

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.

Some 1,000 strikers dismissed by the mining group Barrick: On 25 October, the Canadian mining giant Barrick sacked around 1,000 workers at the Bulyanhulu gold mine who had just begun a strike called by the Tanzania Mines and Construction Workers Union (TAMICO). Barrick regarded the strike as illegal, which the union contested. TAMICO had called the strike following the management's refusal to improve their members' working conditions. It should be pointed out that Barrick has regularly been criticised for its ruthless social practices in Tanzania and elsewhere. In November, Barrick began to recruit replacements for the sacked workers, stipulating however that the people who had been dismissed could apply for the available posts. At the end of the year, the union filed a court case to secure the reinstatement of the strikers, or financial compensation.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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