Trade Unions

This page was last updated on: 2021-01-20

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

The Constitution of Tanzania provides for freedom of association while the Employment and Labour Relations Act allows the workers and employer to establish and join unions.

According to the Employment and Labour Relations Act, trade union is any number of employees associated together for the purpose, whether by itself or with other purposes, of regulating relations between employees and their employers or the employers' associations to which the employers belong.

Union members are free to elect their representatives and formulate their work program. They may draw up their own statutes and administrative regulations, as long as these are not contrary to laws in effect.

The unions must get registered with the Ministry by filing their statutes and rules; a prescribed form (properly completed and signed by the secretary of organisation or federation); a certified copy of the attendance register and minutes of its establishment meeting; and any further information required by the Registrar. A trade union is registered if the Registrar is satisfied that the organisation has fulfilled all the requirements and issues a registration certificate to the organization. Filing of registration form has to be done again in case of any change in statutes and administration.

An employer is not allowed to interfere in a trade union's affairs. Employer may deduct union dues from the wages of the members only after their written consent. Discriminatory behavior is prohibited for the employer on the basis of union affiliation or participation in union activities.

Source: §20 of the Constitution of Tanzania; §9, 45-50 & 61 of the Employment and Labour Relations Act 2004

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Employment and Labour Relations Act, 2004 allows for collective bargaining in all enterprises.

Collective agreement is a written agreement concluded by a registered trade union and an employer or registered employers' association on any labour matter.

In order to bargain collectively, employer or employer's association and the recognized trade union must bargain in good faith and in a reasonable way. Employer must also provide reasonable resources and information to unions involved in collective bargaining. Persons involved in bargaining have to keep confidential the information provided by the employer.

A collective bargaining agreement must be in writing and signed by the parties. A collective agreement is binding on the parties to the agreement, any members of the parties to the agreement, and workers who are not members of a trade union party to the agreement (if the trade union is recognised as the exclusive bargaining agent) unless the agreement states otherwise. Any party to an agreement may terminate the agreement on reasonable notice unless the agreement states otherwise. The copy of agreement must be lodged with the Labour Commissioner.

A recognised trade union and an employer or an employers' association may conclude a collective agreement establishing a forum for workers' participation in a workplace. The Labour Commissioner facilitates any discussions concerning the establishment of a forum for workers participation in any workplace taking into account any code of good practice published by the Council on workers participation.

Labour, Economic and Social Council (LESCO), established under the Labour Institutions Act, is a 16-member Council with 4 representatives each from government, employer and worker groups. Four other members are appointed for their expertise in labour, economic and social policy formulation. The Council advises the Minister on national labour market policy, any proposed labour law before it is submitted to cabinet. It also collects and compiles information and statistics relating to the administration of the labour laws.

Source: §66-74 of the Employment and Labour Relations Act 2004; §9 of the Employment and Labour Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2015; §3-11 of the Labour Institutions Act 2004

Right to Strike

According to the Employment and labour Relations Act, strike means a total or partial stoppage of work by employees if the stoppage is meant to compel their employer, any other employer, or an employers' association to which the employer belongs, to accept, modify or abandon any demand that may form the subject matter of a dispute of interest.

Compulsory recourse to arbitration, long and complex conciliation and mediation procedures prior to strike actions generally restrict the right to strike. There is a compulsory 30-day mediation period before lawful strike action may be taken. Strike is prohibited to the workers engaged in essential services except when a collective agreement provides for minimum services during a strike and that agreement has been approved by the Essential Services Committee.

Strike is also prohibited for the worker bounded by an agreement that requires issues in dispute to be referred to arbitration; or bounded by a collective agreement or an arbitration award that regulates the disputes in question; or bounded by a wage determination that regulates the issues in dispute during the first year of determination. Members of union must approve strike by secret ballot. Strike is lawful if the dispute is of interest and all the methods of dispute resolution (conciliation, meditation and arbitration) fail. Members of union must inform the employer at least forty eight hours prior to their intention to strike.

Strikers are prohibited from picketing (in support of a strike or in opposition to a lawful strike), locking the employers in the premises and preventing employers from entering the premises.

The Act prohibits the employer from hiring replacement worker during lawful strike or in a lockout.

A trade union may call a secondary strike in support of a lawful strike (primary strike) if fourteen days notice of the commencement of the secondary strike has been given to the secondary employer. The secondary strike may pressurize the employer to resolve the dispute that gives rise to primary strike.

Employers also have the right to lockout workers. This right is subject to the same rules and restrictions as the right to strike.

Source: §20 of the Constitution of Tanzania, §75-85 of the Employment and labour Relations Act 2004


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