Tanzania's new dispute resolution system

Issue 3 / Jun - Aug, 2010
Jul 05, 2010
Reading time: 5 minutes (594 words)


The two relatively new laws the labor Institution Act, 2004 and the Employment and labor Relations Act, 2004 mark the cornerstones of the modernized labor relations regime in Tanzania. The Acts establish new labor institutions an important one of which is the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) as a means of resolving labor disputes.

The new labor regime introduces the principle that labor disputes should be solved as early and at a low a level as possible. It is encouraged therefore that labor disputes be resolved at the place of work. This requires, among other things, that both employers and worker/s are aware of their rights and obligations and how to manage these. Over the years, trade unions and employers' organizations such as the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) and the Association of Tanzanian Employers (ATE) have offered courses to their members and representatives on the new labor laws. TUCTA and ATE have also established competent units to assist their members on labor relations issues. However, despite this there is still no doubt that many employers and workers are not fully familiar with the content of the new labor laws as well as the procedures associated with them.

If it is not possible to settle the disagreement at the workplace, the parties can bring their dispute to the CMA. It is the expectation that the CMA will provide a new, less legalistic and bureaucratic system for resolving labor disputes through an informal but structured hearing and discussion process. The CMA will achieve this firstly by mediation. If unsuccessful, the case will go for arbitration. In short, the difference between the two processes is that the mediation process attempts to find a settlement which is acceptable to both parties, whereas the arbitration process allows the arbitrator to make a decision based on a hearing.

One of the preconditions for a well functioning CMA is that the parties have faith in the institution, its procedures and the mediators and arbitrators. The CMA is independent of the Government, political parties, trade unions and employers' association.

A Code of Conduct has been developed governing the function of mediators and arbitrators. The mediators and arbitrators are well versed with labor relations and some have even previously worked as labor officers. During the process of establishing the CMA, tailored training was offered to mediators and arbitrators aimed at preparing them for their new duties and responsibilities. To service the entire country, the CMA has established eleven operational zonal offices as follows:

  • Dar es Salaam zone which covers Coast and Morogoro
  • Dodoma zone which covers Dodoma and Singida
  • Morogoro zone which covers Morogoro, Ifakara and Kilosa
  • Arusha zone which covers Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Same and Manyara
  • Tanga zone which covers Tanga, Korogwe and Lushoto
  • Mwanza zone which covers Mwanza, Bukoba, Musoma and Shinyanga
  • Mbeya zone which covers Mbeya and Rukwa
  • Mtwara zone which covers Mtwara and Lindi
  • Songea zone which for Ruvuma
  • Iringa zone which covers Iringa and Mafinga
  • Tabora zone which covers Tabora and Kigoma

When a dispute is brought to the CMA, the parties must be represented by a third party, the trade union, ATE or a lawyer specialized in labor relations. This highlights the relevance for workers and employers to seek assistance from those that can offer them legal advice.

Email with your labor law questions.

Søren Bo Poulsen (


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Thanks for the article. It would be nice to produce another article on what forms are applicable to which court and a step-by-step process for litigation.

- Elisante Yona on Nov 10, 2011

Hi Nichola,

Please see my posting below, dated July 18, 2010.



- Hassan Dewji (People Power) on Dec 07, 2010

I am interested to know what recourse one would have if a company did not pay its staff, for instance, if it has not paid laborers for work completed for almost 2 years? Can one report this to the labor department? Health and safety is also an issue. If a company opens up - don't the health and safety and labor departments have to come and inspect the premises to ensure that standards are adhered to or are complied with?

- Nichola Waterhouse on Nov 09, 2010

I appreciate the work done by the Government to put into place the CMA, however, the concern still looms over its efficiency and ability to assist employees in obtaining solutions to their problems. It is the responsibility of the CMA to be an agency of merit and provide authentic services to aggrieved Tanzanian employees. Having said that, it is also equally the obligation of Tanzanians to search for information concerning their rights that is up to date. For sure, there is no excuse for being ignorant or docile of one's rights!

- Abednego Swai Noel on Oct 27, 2010

Define mediation and arbitration, describe the processes and indicate how they are utilized to solve labor disputes in Tanzania?

- Salma Waijaha on Jul 20, 2010

Hi Stephen,

There are various companies that can assist you with your employment / labor / trade union matters. One such company is HR Solutions Ltd. You can contact Mr. Kassam on



- Hassan Dewji (People Power) on Jul 18, 2010

I appreciate the author who took the time to educate the working class as well as the employers regarding their rights. It will bring a congenial working atmosphere and good understanding between the workers and employers resulting in smooth running of industries and businesses.

- Qasim Bharmal on Jul 10, 2010

We have a dispute with Bulyanhulu Gold Mine and the case is taking too long.

- Stephen Chagu on Jul 10, 2010

Very large number of disputes arise between employers and employees because of ignorance surrounding the correct laws and the advantages of implementing them. Greater efforts should therefore be made in very short, concise and simple and easy to understand teaching interventions. This will bring closenes and better understanding between both employers and employees.

- Kishor Varu on Jul 07, 2010

I agree with Mhando and unfortunately the majority of those who are unaware of the new labor laws are actually the employees. I know that the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) has conducted several seminars to ensure HR and other Managers are aware of the changes.

However, like with most educational issues, the onus is on the individual to ensure that they remain updated with issues that concern their well being, employment or otherwise. Employers need to make sure they are updated as well as the employees.

- Isabella Faya on Jul 06, 2010

A good number of employees and Administration Officers / Managers are not aware of the contents of the new labor laws. As such, efforts should be taken to conduct seminars towards educating them.

- Mhando Osward (TTCL) on Jul 05, 2010

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