10 November 2011

Tanzania: Mediation, Arbitration Commission Improves Services

One of the institutions that were formed in Tanzania mainland during the 50 years of independence and which is the pride of the nation is the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA).

For the past two to three months, Tanzanians and in particular government ministries and public institutions have been marking various events and exhibition as a warm up towards Tanzania mainland's celebration of 50 years of independence from Britain in December 9th, 1961.

Effective last Tuesday, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has been conducting its exhibition at the Mnazi Mmoja Garden in the centre of Dar es Salaam. "We are here to showcase the Ministry of Labour and Employment successes and challenges it has recorded for the past 50 years.

Besides showcasing the successes, we are using this opportunity to interact and share views with ordinary Tanzanians and labour sector stakeholders on how best the Ministry and institutions under the Ministry can steer the country on a better, peaceful and harmonious labour sector road for the coming 50 years," said the Minister for Labour and Employment, Gaudensia Kabaka, when officiating at the exhibition opening ceremony.

The Minister used the opening ceremony to reiterate the government commitment to see it promotes peace and harmony at work places by adhering to the rule of law. She mentioned equipping and financing the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) making use of tripartite dialogue mechanism and implementing International Labour Treaties under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as some of the key strategies to be effectively employed by the Ministry in making sure there is peace and harmony for the labour sector.

She challenged trade unionists and employers to form and make use of workers councils to resolve various disputes arising at work places ,as by doing so it will cement employer-employee relations at the same time saving time which would be spent in managing the dispute at CMA or the Labour Court.

On the implementation of new labour laws in particular the new system of resolving labour disputes through CMA, the minister did not hesitate to shower praise on the Commission's excellent performance in resolving labour disputes.

"It is about four years since the old disputes settlement regime faded away and gave way to a more robust, flexible and delivery minded system under the CMA. The Commission's performance is wonderful as it has managed to resolve 25,771 labour disputes out of 35,281 received at the Commission since 2007 to last June. This represents a 73 per cent which is impressive by any standard," said the delighted minister.

For the majority of Tanzanians employed in the then expansive public sector remember how common it was for a labour dispute lodged at Conciliation Board and the Industrial Labour to drag for months and over-dragging to years. "I remember in 1980 when I was wrongly dismissed by my boss in the then National Milling Corporation (NMC) at the Buguruni Bakery and soon was heading to the Industrial Labour Court full of hope my case was straight forward and will be decided soon.

That was not the case, the dispute took over ten years and on giving its verdict NMC was no longer there," narrates Mr Bushiri Kipelo, a former NMC employee in Dar es Salaam. The former NMC employee, who currently works with one of the major local bakeries, says he was dismissed after he was labelled an anti-Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) branch leadership at work place, something which he claims was not true, rather was a ploy used by the management in cohort with the CCM branch leadership to cover-up illegal siphoning and outright sell of tones of wheat flour, a property of NMC.

"With the support of the then sole trade union, National Union of Tanzania Workers (NUTA) or in Kiswahili Jumuiya ya Wafanyakazi Tanzania (JUWATA), I was readily to defend myself before the Industrial Court. However, using the ill-informed party machinery at district and regional level my appearance before the court kept on being re-scheduled leaving me suffering heavily," noted Mr Kipelo.

Mr Kipelo's woes are a distant history with the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration CMA blaze it is setting across the country in giving timely justice to employees and employers once a labour dispute arises. During the era of CCM running the show on every sector of the country's life in the early eighties, a government official was able to issue the Industrial Court with orders to give a verdict in favour of the government, a parastatal, or a rightly politically positioned personality, the situation today is so different.

"Based on the Employment and Labour Relations Act and the Labour Institutions Act both of 2004, no one can interfere with the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) in performing its functions," hinted, Cosmas Fimbo Msigwa, the Commission's Director, adding that CMA operates independently to ensure it builds confidence to stakeholders such as the government, employers, employees' and trade unions, CMA must provide for quick, just and legally unchallengeable decisions to all labour disputes brought before it.

He says unlike in the past where the former Industrial Court relied much on proceedings like those found in the ordinary legal court whereby a number of procedures must be followed including investigations. With CMA rules are simple and different.

"Fine CMA is a court of law and dispenses justice as other known court of laws, however, a distinctive difference with other courts of law is the fact that here we have parties which are keen to end the dispute at soonest possible time so that they can proceed to production and income seeking ventures. This fact provides a perfect foundation to go into mediation with the parties nod," explained the CMA Director.

According to Msigwa, at mediation level CMA has a major principle of assuming that no one has committed offence or has been offended between the two parties, rather the parties over-stepped while at a work place. The over-stepping needs to be re-dressed through a dialogue to be managed by the mediator.

On settling down for mediation the parties are encouraged to forget the past mis-steps and see how they can build-reproach for the good of the company, industry or an investment, If reproach is not feasible then the mediator will seek for a goodbye hand-shake payment to a worker, which in any way is not regarded as compensation payment but strictly seen as goodbye hand-shake payment by both parties.

The CMA Director, however, points out that the challenges being faced by CMA are not as simple as one might judge, given the way it persuades parties to agree to mediation process instead of sticking to their positions hence force the parties agree to disagree under mediation forces.

He says normally CMA mediators sweat to persuade parties to agree with a goodbye hand-shake , saying some employers and employees' are not easily forgiving remembering how it went at a place of work. "Really we play with psychology detailing to the parties how it will cost in terms of money and time if it did not accept ending the dispute at mediation. More important we tell them with the way the CMA Acts is tuned.

No political pressure can be exerted to CMA to cancel the dispute in favour of either the employer or the employee," assured Mr Msigwa. It is this magic which has seen CMA resolve 25,771 labour disputes out of 35,281 received by the Commission between May 2007 and last June.

The CMA chief often pays tribute to the government for undertaking labour laws reforms which saw institutions like CMA are formed. As the Commission has proved worthy its creation given the way disputes lodged increases day-in-day out rather than decreasing. He says if the government had stuck to the former dispute prevention system, there was a possibility that industrial harmony could have been compromised, hence causing unnecessary and life-costing street chaos by workers.

"It is known worldwide that industrial peace and stability is a crucial pillar of a given nation's political stability. Once other citizen see workers get into streets shouting anti-government slogans in demand of their labour rights, they feel the government has lost control hence they join forces causing a serious threat to the country's peace, unity and stability.

It is with such knowledge that CMA is striving by tooth and nail to see it dispenses labour rights on time, justly and legally acceptable to both employees' and employers for the good of the country's stability, progress and peace," strongly hinted Mr Msigwa.

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