Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The mainland and Zanzibari governments have separate labor laws. Workers on the mainland, except for workers in the categories of “national service” and prison guards, have the right to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The government nevertheless restricted these rights. Reinstatement of workers fired for trade union activity is not mandatory.
Trade unions in the private sector must consist of more than 20 members and register with the government, while public-sector unions need 30 members. Five organizations are required to form a federation. Trade union affiliation with nonunion organizations can be annulled by the Labor Court if it was obtained without government approval, or if the union is considered an organization whose remit is broader than just employer-worker relations. A trade union or employers association must file for registration with the Registrar of Trade Unions in the Ministry of Labor within six months of establishment. The law, however, does not provide for specific time limits within which the government must register an organization, and the registrar has the power to refuse registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds. The government prescribes the terms of office of trade union leaders. Failure to comply with government requirements is subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.
The law requires unions to submit financial records and a membership list to the registrar annually and to obtain government approval for association with international trade unions. The registrar can apply to the Labor Court to deregister or suspend unions if there is overlap within an enterprise or if it is determined the union violated the law or endangered public security.
Collective bargaining agreements must be registered with the Labor Commission. Public service employees, except for limited exceptions, such as workers involved in “national service” and prison guards, may also engage in collective bargaining.
Employers have the right to initiate a lockout provided they comply with certain legal requirements and procedures. For a strike to be declared legal, the law requires three separate notifications of intent, a waiting period of at least 92 days, and a union vote in the presence of a Ministry of Labor official that garners approval by at least 75 percent of the members voting. All parties to a dispute may be bound by an agreement to arbitrate, and neither party may then engage in a strike or a lockout until that process has been completed. Disputes regarding adjustments to or the terms of signed contracts must be addressed through arbitration and are not subject to strikes.
The law restricts the right to strike when a strike would endanger the life and health of the population. Picketing in support of a strike or in opposition to a lawful lockout is prohibited. Workers in sectors defined as “essential” (water and sanitation, electricity, health services and associated laboratory services, firefighting, air traffic control, civil aviation, telecommunications, and any transport services required for the provision of these services) may not strike without a pre-existing agreement to maintain “minimum services.” Workers in other sectors may also be subject to this limitation as determined by the Essential Services Committee, a tripartite committee composed of employers, workers, and government representatives with the authority periodically to deem which services are essential.
According to the 2004 Labor Relations Act, an employer may not legally terminate an employee for participating in a lawful strike or terminate an employee who accedes to the demands of an employer during a lockout.
Penalties for violations include fines up to TZS five million ($2,180), imprisonment up to one year, or both, but these penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Disputes on the grounds of antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration, a governmental department affiliated with the Ministry of Labor. There was no public information available regarding cases of antiunion discrimination.
There were no reports of sector-wide strikes or any other major strikes in the country.
In Zanzibar the law requires any union with 50 or more members to be registered, a threshold few companies could meet. The law sets literacy standards for trade union officers. The law provides the registrar considerable powers to restrict registration by setting forth criteria for determining whether an organization’s constitution contains suitable provisions to protect its members’ interests. The law applies to both public- and private-sector workers and bans Zanzibari workers from joining labor unions on the mainland. The law prohibits a union’s use of its funds, directly or indirectly, to pay any fines or penalties incurred by trade union officials in the discharge of their official duties. In Zanzibar both government and private sector workers have the right to strike as long as they follow procedures outlined in the labor law. For example, workers in essential sectors may not strike; others must give mediation authorities at least 30 days to resolve the issue in dispute and provide a 14-day advance notice of any proposed strike action.
The law provides for collective bargaining in the private sector. Public-sector employees also have the right to bargain collectively through the Trade Union of Government and Health Employees; however, members of the police force and prison service, and high-level public officials (for example, the head of an executive agency) are barred from joining a trade union. Zanzibar’s Dispute Handling Unit addresses labor disputes. In Zanzibar judges and all judicial officers, members of special departments, and employees of the House of Representatives are excluded from labor law protection.
In Zanzibar the courts are the only venue in which labor disputes can be heard. According to the Commission of Labor in Zanzibar, 16 workers used the courts for labor disputes.
The government did not consistently enforce the law protecting the right to collective bargaining. On both the mainland and in Zanzibar, private-sector employers adopted antiunion policies or tactics, although discriminatory activities by an employer against union members are illegal. The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA)’s 2018 annual report claimed that international mining interests bribed government officials to ignore workers’ complaints and write false favorable reports on work conditions in mines. TUCTA also reported that employers discouraged workers from collective bargaining and retaliated against workers’ rights activists via termination of employment and other measures.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law allows prisoners to work without pay on construction and agriculture projects within prisons. The law deems such work acceptable as long as a public authority ensures the work is not for the benefit of any private party. The law also allows work carried out as part of compulsory national service in certain limited circumstances. The constitution provides that no work shall be considered forced labor if such work forms part of compulsory national service in accordance with the law, or “the national endeavor at the mobilization of human resources for the enhancement of society and the national economy and to ensure development and national productivity.”
The law establishes criminal penalties for employers using forced labor. Offenders may be fined up to TZS five million ($2,180), sentenced to one year in prison, or both. The government did not consistently enforce the law. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reported unspecified instances of forced labor, including those involving children from the southern highlands forced into domestic service or labor on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Forced child labor occurred (see section 7.c.).
Prisoners provided labor on projects outside of the prison, such as road repair and government construction projects. According to the 2018 budget speech delivered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, prisoners provide labor at the government-owned Mbigiri Sugar Industry in Morogoro Region and planted 1976 acres of sugar cane.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits the exploitation of children in the workplace. By law the minimum age for contractual employment is 14 on the mainland; in Zanzibar the minimum age is 15. Children older than age 14 but younger than 18 may be employed to do only light work unlikely to harm their health, development, or attendance at school. In addition, the government published regulations to define hazardous work for children in several sectors, including in agriculture, fishery, mining, and quarrying, construction, service, informal operations, and the transport sectors. The law specifically limits working hours for children to three hours a day. Fines ranging from TZS 100,000 to TZS 500 million ($44 to $218,000) and imprisonment ranging from three months to 20 years, or both, may be imposed for violations of the law. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations, and there were no reported cases of prosecutions under this law.
The government did not effectively enforce the law. The lack of enforcement left children vulnerable to exploitation and with few protections. According to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, approximately 29 percent of all children were engaged in child labor. Child labor was prevalent in agriculture, mining, industry, fishing, and domestic work. The ILO previously worked with the government to train labor inspectors on the problem of child labor, but during the year no reported child labor cases were brought to court. During the year’s budget speech, the minister of health reported 6,393 child labor cases (1,528 female and 4,865 male). Officials reported that their authority was limited to the formal economy, and most child labor took place in the family and informal economy.
Government measures to ameliorate child labor included verifying that children of school age attended school, imposing penalties on parents who did not enroll their children in school, and pressing employers in the formal sector not to employ children younger than 18. Ministry of Labor officials reported, however, enforcement of child labor laws was difficult because many children worked in private homes or rural areas. A combination of factors, including distance from urban-based labor inspectors and a lack of understanding by children on how to report the conditions of their employment and when to do so, complicated inspections. Officials reported the problem of child labor was particularly acute among orphans. In cooperation with the government, Plan International operated programs in the mining sector to combat child labor.
In mainland Tanzania, children worked as domestic workers, street vendors, and shopkeepers as well as in small-scale agriculture, family-based businesses, fishing, construction, and artisanal mining of gold and tanzanite. According to Human Rights Watch, children as young as eight worked in mining. In Zanzibar children worked primarily in transportation, fishing, clove picking, domestic labor, small businesses, and gravel making.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The employment and labor relations law prohibits workplace discrimination, directly or indirectly, against an employee based on color, nationality, tribe, or place of origin, race, national extraction, social origin, political opinion or religion, sex, gender, pregnancy, marital status or family responsibility, disability, HIV/AIDS, age, or station in life. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, language, citizenship, or other communicable disease status. The law distinguishes between discrimination and an employer hiring or promoting based on affirmative action measures consistent with the promotion of equality, or hiring based on an inherent requirement of the job. The government in general did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties were insufficient to deter violations.
Women have the same status as men under labor law on the mainland. According to TUCTA, gender-based discrimination in terms of wages, promotions, and legal protections in employment continued to occur in the private sector. It was difficult to prove and often went unpunished. While employers in the formal sector were more attentive to laws against discrimination, problems were particularly acute in the informal sector, in which women were disproportionately employed. Women often were employed for low pay and in hazardous jobs, and they reported high levels of bullying, threats, and sexual harassment. A 2015 study by the LHRC found that women faced particular discrimination in the mining, steel, and transport industries.
Discrimination against migrant workers also occurred. They often faced difficulties in seeking documented employment outside of the informal sector. The Noncitizens Employment Regulation Act of 2015 gives the labor commissioner authority to deny work permits if a Tanzanian worker with the same skills is available. During the year foreign professionals, including senior management of international corporations, frequently faced difficulties obtaining or renewing work permits. Because refugees lived in camps and could not travel freely (see section 2.d.), few worked in the formal sector. While efforts by nongovernment and government actors had been made to curb discrimination and violence against persons with albinism, the LHRC reported that this population still lived in fear of their personal security and therefore could not fully participate in social, economic, and political activities. The LHRC also stated that persons with disabilities also faced discrimination in seeking employment and access to the workplace.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The government established minimum wage standards in 2015 for employees in both the public and private sectors on the mainland, and it divided those standards into nine employment sectors. The lowest minimum wage was TZS 40,000 ($17.50) per month for the lowest-paid category of domestic workers residing in the household of the employer, who were not addressed in previous legislation. The highest was TZS 400,000 ($175) per month for workers in the telecommunications and multinational mining, energy, and financial sectors. The law allows employers to apply to the Ministry of Labor for an exemption from paying the minimum wage. These monthly wages were above the basic-needs poverty line of TZS 36,482 ($16) per month per person and the food poverty line of TZS 26,085 ($11.30) per month, which had not changed since being established by the 2011/12 Household Budget Survey. The labor laws cover all workers, including foreign and migrant workers and those in the informal sector. The minimum wage on Zanzibar was TZS 300,000 ($130) per month.
The labor standards laws derive from the international convention on labor standards. According to the law, the ordinary workweek is 45 hours, with a maximum of nine hours per day or six days per week. Any work in excess of these limits should be compensated with overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the employee’s regular wage. Under most circumstances, it is illegal to schedule pregnant or breast-feeding women for work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., although employers frequently ignored this restriction.
The law states employees with 12 months of employment are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave, and it requires employee compensation for national holidays. The law prohibits excessive or compulsory overtime, and it restricts required overtime to 50 hours in a four-week period or in accordance with previously negotiated work contracts. The law requires equal pay for equal work.
Several laws regulate occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in the workplace. According to TUCTA, OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries and enforcement of these standards had been improving, but challenges remained in the private sector. In March the National Audit Office released a follow-up report on a 2013 performance audit on the management of occupational health and safety in the country. The report found that of 27 audit recommendations, 20 had been fully implemented, six had been partially implemented, and only one had not been implemented. OSH standards, however, were not effectively enforced in the informal economy. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority had offices in 25 of the 31 regions and 201 staff members. In Zanzibar the government employed five labor inspectors for the islands and conducted 120 inspections between January and June. The inspection system’s effectiveness was limited due to lack of resources and the insufficient number of labor officers available to conduct inspections. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively enforce this protection.
Workers may sue an employer if their working conditions do not comply with the Ministry of Labor’s health and environmental standards. Disputes were generally resolved through the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration. There were no exceptions for foreign or migrant workers.
Many workers did not have employment contracts and lacked legal protections. The LHRC reported that approximately 38 percent of workers did not have contracts, and of those who did, an estimated 38 percent only had oral contracts. The LHRC also reported that employees who signed written contracts were often not provided copies of the contract, contracts held by employees differed from those maintained by employers, many contracts did not include job descriptions, and companies frequently used short-term contracts of six months or less to avoid hiring organized workers with labor protections.
The government did not effectively enforce labor standards, particularly in the informal sector. According to the 2014 Integrated Labor Force Survey (the latest available), of an active labor force of 22 million, 66 percent worked in the informal sector (including agriculture).
In dangerous industries such as construction, employees often worked without protective equipment such as helmets, gloves, or harnesses. According to a 2008 Accident Notification Survey (latest available), the sectors with the highest rates of fatal accidents were construction and building, transport, and mining and quarrying. Domestic workers were reportedly frequent victims of abuse.