Trade unionism in Tanzania: the case of the Tanzania Federation of Trade Unions (TFTU) and government

Trade unionism in Tanzania: the case of the Tanzania Federation of Trade Unions (TFTU) and government

The history and evolution of worker's movements and their relationship with the state in Tanzania

This study on trade unionism in Tanzania is largely anchored on the theoretical premise that in order to attain a thorough understanding of the movement , the varying contexts in which the movement originated and developed need to be taken into account. Therefore the paper:

  • first attempts to locate the origins and development of trade unionism in Tanzania. It examines the nature and character of the first trade unions that emerged in Tanzania in the pre-independence period and focuses on the responses of the colonial state to the emerging unions
  • it secondly analyses the encounter between the trade union movement and the post-independence governments. Of particular interest is the manner and the extent to which three decades of a monolithic political system have impacted on the conduct and development of the movement. It also discuss some factors that precipitated into the demand for reforms in the trade union movement
  • the last section focuses on the Tanzania Federation of Trade Unions (TFTU), as an apex organization to which trade unions claim affiliation. The manner in which the federation conducts itself in relation to its internal and external environment is discussed. Lastly, critical analysis of the legal climate, particularly the newly enacted Trade Unions Act, 1998 is performed
The paper concludes by firstly commenting on how the origins and development of the trade union movement in Tanzania has its roots in the workers' sporadic struggles for economic and social rights. Post-independence governments, for three decades, did not create a conducive environment for the growth and development of an autonomous trade union movement. Nevertheless, state manoeuvres and tactics did not deter the progressive forces in and outside the union to continue the struggles for autonomy, culminating in the birth of the Tanzania Federation of Trade Unions (TFTU).

The author suggests that the trade union movement in Tanzania has a number of challenges ahead, as the TFTU and its affiliates need to justify their existence as independent trade unions which are all out to defend the occupational, economic and social interests of the workers. The following recommendations are made:

  • democratic principles governing trade unionism should be persistently upheld, ensuring legitimacy and support from the workers that they purport to represent
  • ensure that there is always an organic link between the unions and members at the grassroots
  • devise and use effective tools in their struggle for the economic interests of their members
  • internal leadership conflicts have to be resolved using democratic procedures
  • active participation of the movement in the policy formulation process
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