Tanzania’s Employers vs. Employees’ bodies in a tug of war regarding non-citizens’ employment
- ATE proponents for the overhaul of the law on labour relations and protection of the investors’ interests by keeping a shield over foreign employees class
- Workers Unions and confederations lauding and applauding the government’s move in restricting foreign employments
As of the past few weeks the government of Tanzania has been carrying a fierce crackdown on the immigration issues concerning the employment status, requirement and justification of foreign citizens. The government has, in implementation of the newly enacted (2015) Non-Citizens Employment (Regulation) Act created stern rules and erratic measures in the system. Apart from the main act of separating the issuance of work permit and residence permit and requiring the application for both permits, the government also cancelled issuance of classes of permits which were earlier on given. See the cancellation of Carry-On Temporary Assignment (CTA) and the issuance of newly introduced Short Term Work Permits (STPs). The said measures and many more have left investors and their international employees in a state of unfamiliarity and utmost panic.
As stakeholders in the field, different bodies have stepped out and aired their views with regards to the government actions;
The Employers’ View
As the ones standing to suffer mostly from the restrictions, employers were the first to come out and cry foul, deeming the move of the government unfair to them as it denies them a pick of cream staff and forces them to employ Tanzanians even if the so nationals are not competitive in the labour market.
The Association of Tanzania Employers was quoted to also ask the government to eliminate the law and policy premise that focuses on certification qualification and venture into the skills market of labour. It implied that the home market is rich of people with colourful qualifications but lacking requisite skills for the positions. The argument for this premise perhaps can be seen by the sheer fact that most of top positions when they are pitted, nationals tend to lose out to non-citizens, even of other African countries.
The Association suggested that the government should avoid the risk of being labelled anti- foreign to or discouraging serious investors, employers would like to see more relaxed labour and immigration laws on foreigners working in the country, versus the lack of qualified local workers in specialized and non-specialized fields
The Employees view
As would be expected, the bodies that represent employees, such as trade unions and trade union confederations have come out loudly applauding and lauding the government’s crackdown on non-citizens’ employment. They have hailed it as a necessary measure against denial of employment of home grown labour class.
The Secretary General of TUCTA (A Trade Unions Congress of Tanzania) was parroted saying “…TUCTA urges the government to continue with the operation for we have so many university graduates with qualifications equal to foreign workers employed in the country”. Likewise, another body, called The East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) stated recently that Tanzania had a right to protect its internal labour market and make sure that it does not leave loopholes for foreigners to exploit and creep into the employment sector of the country at the expense of the qualified citizens”.
With these conflicting forces in the field, the government is pitted in the middle of it all. With the majority of the country’s major economy supporters coming from foreign investment ventures, a dark shadow on investor’s relations is casted as most would tend to desire that their investments are being nurtured by people they had trained and developed over a long period of time. This argument is implied in the “skill-set” notion of an employee. This argument is countered by the employees’ bodies by the notion of “train Tanzanians” for those jobs which may be seen as an added cost and liability on time. In a statement reported by the media recently the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Charles Kitwanga was quoted saying that the government is the shoe maker and the investors “the shoe wearers”. That the investors’ voices are heard and that the government is keen to ensure the investors that it does not intend to expel experts from Tanzania. In the same footing, the Deputy Minister, Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and Disabled), Hon. Anthony Mavunde, told reporters earlier that the government had no intention expelling foreign experts working in the country but it wanted to regulate and realign the legal regime for employment and engagement of non-citizens in Tanzania Mainland
All in all, Breakthrough Attorneys opines that one of the key ingredient of investment is also the issue of knowledge transfer. As a developing country and with a multitude of investment ventures, Tanzania needs to open up to more influx of foreign expertise. In a dialogue with stakeholders, Mr. Leonard Kitoka (Managing Director Innovex, a leading Pan-African advisory and assurance firm, opened to our labour department dialogues that “I think this country needs more professionals and experts than we currently have. If we can have more of these experts and professionals from other nations, then let it be, this can only help Tanzania growth ambitions. There is no country that has ever made significant progress by closing itself and blocking away the rest of the world. If there is anything we need now is a Tanzania green card type visa that focuses at encouraging more foreign experts to come and work in the country”. The denial of grant of permits based on the pretext that there is a multitude of university graduates readily unemployed in the country is not an accurate approach regarding the matter as our labour need is based on skills as opposed to mere qualifications.
We find it that the Tanzanian labour market desperately needs competence and skills diversity which can only be achieved through skills importation. We think that the government should adhere to Tanzania’s Employers’ community and approach the issue from the skills point of view.
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