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Tanzania: Strike cancelled amid calls for negotiation

The Tanzania Teachers’ Union (TTU) has called off its strike over teachers’ pay, after a High Court ruling found the countrywide action unlawful. The TTU made its decision in order to encourage bilateral discussions with the government to settle its case.

 

The announcement came on 4 August, a day after the Labour Division of the Tanzania High Court declared the strike staged on 30 July illegal. Around 3,700 primary school teachers and 4,300 secondary school teachers in public schools went on strike then after the government and the teachers’ union failed to agree on the teachers’ pay rise.

Union prepares to appeal

“Our lawyers will assess the directives issued by High Court Judge Sophia Wambura,” said TTU President Gratian Mukoba. “They will also advise us as we prepare to appeal. In its ruling, the High Court, among other things, ordered the TTU leadership to ask all its members to resume their duties effective on Friday. We have already done that.”

He also indicated that “the ruling has disappointed teachers, considering that the employer – the Government – does not seem to care about their genuine demands. Taking this matter to court was not the best option.”

Arrested teachers must be released

Mukoba appealed to the police to release without conditions all of the teachers who were arrested in connection with the ongoing strike. He denied allegations that some teachers were coercing colleagues who had been unwilling to participate in the strike. “It is not true that there are teachers inciting colleagues and pupils to strike and revolt,” said Mukoba. 

“Some teachers also told us that in the Coast, Morogoro and Ruvuma regions, some teachers, administrators and union leaders have been receiving threats from authorities that they will be arrested and prosecuted.”

Salary demands

The teachers had demanded a doubling of their salary with an additional 55 per cent hardship allowance for science and mathematics teachers and 50 per cent for teachers of other subjects. They also demanded another 30 per cent allowance for teachers working in hostile circumstances. Moreover, the teachers also want to be paid their salary and allowance arrears accumulated for many years.

Judge’s ruling

However, the union’s case did not hold favour with the High Court. “I hold that the strike, which has been going on for three days, is unlawful,” Judge Sophia Wambura ruled. “I order that it should be terminated immediately and all teachers who are on strike to resume their duties forthwith."

She noted that, according to the Employment Labour Relations Act, the respondents were required to provide 48-hour notice to the employer prior to the commencement of the strike. “But, the notice was given on a Friday evening, falling on the weekend, and the employer did not get enough time to safeguard its properties as required by law. The notice does not state when the strike will end and the strike, which is indefinite, is by itself unlawful.”

The judge advised that, since all parties have expressed a need to return to the negotiation table, they should make deliberate efforts to reach an amicable settlement.

Ready to negotiate

Mukoba underlined that TTU leaders were ready to meet with the government provided the latter would cooperate and faithfully consider teachers’ demands.

“We don’t understand why the government refused to meet with us to discuss the matter on how we could solve the crisis,” he said. “They should understand that threats will not help solve the problems we have.”

EI: Educators’ collective bargaining must be respected

EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said: “We support our Tanzanian colleagues’ demands for negotiations concerning their status. The Government must understand that respecting educators’ trade union rights and ensuring they get decent work conditions will improve quality public education, therefore helping this country achieve Education For All by 2015.”

The Resolution from the African Region adopted at the 6th EI World Congress, held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2011, also observes that, “in Africa, the trade union organisations in the education sector are essential for democratic development and social progress”.

It considers that the strength of the trade unions in the education sector is measured by their members in terms of their democratic nature and their strategies for independence and unity in relation to employers, governments, political parties and all external forces.

This resolution further notes “the persistent violation by the majority of African governments of national and international legal instruments for the defence and promotion of trade union rights and particularly the right to collective bargaining and the right of trade union organisations to be involved in defining national education policies”.

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