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Union in Tanzania stops attempt to cut wages

10 June, 2020When Mazava Fabrics and Production East Africa announced that it is closing for three months and cutting wages by 50 per cent due to the Covid-19 pandemic, over 2,000 workers picketed at the garment factory.

Over 90 per cent of the workers at the sports jersey factory in Morogoro’s export processing zone are women. Monthly wages range from 120,000-180 000 Tanzanian Shillings (US$52-78).

The company said the closure, effective from 24 May to 6 September, was caused by cancelled US orders  due to Covid-19.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Tanzania Union of Industrial and Commercial Workers (TUICO), challenged the company’s decision that was made without consulting the union.

On 12 May, TUICO filed a dispute with the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) Morogoro Region against the employer for not involving the union in the matter, and for violating  workers’ rights and interests of the union’s 819 members and other workers at the factory.

The employer argued that it did not consult TUICO because the union did not have a majority at the factory.

After two weeks, TUICO won the dispute at the CMA and the employer agreed to pay 70 per cent for the period when the factory will be closed.

The victory at the CMA saw TUICO gaining 229 new members at the factory, thus making the union reach a majority of over 50 per cent. With this majority, the union is now preparing for collective bargaining agreement negotiations when the factory reopens. The union also intends to organize the remaining workers as well as introduce programmes on health and safety.

Margaret Ndagile, TUICO’s head of sector services says:

“Workers at Mazava fabrics now see the union as one that fights for their rights. The union continues to build trust and confidence among the workers who now realise the power of solidarity. We will continue emphasizing to our members that solidarity remains one of our key strategies.”

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa, says:

“The cost of the Covid-19 pandemic should not be paid by workers alone. This is a crisis which calls for negotiations between employers and unions. We commend TUICO for going for conciliation and mediation to protect workers’ rights and wages.”