Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) will hold its General Assembly in November 11 and 12 in Dodoma to elect the President, Vice President, Secretary General, deputy Secretary General, the Treasurer, four members of the board of trustees and committee leaders for the youth, women and People with Disabilities (PwDs).
But, former Tucta secretary general Nicholas Mgaya said during an interview with The Citizen at his Tabata home that the congress needs a complete overhaul from the grassroots in order to efficiently execute its duties of advocating workers welfare.
During this Question and Answers interview, The Citizen Reporter Louis Kolumbia brings you his opinion on different issues; socially and economically.
Q: What is your opinion on the Tucta General Assembly slated for November this year and your message to members?
A: Tucta needs a complete overhaul; therefore members should pick competent leaders.
The overhaul should start with trade unions that are the foundation determining the strength of the national body.
I propose the complete overhaul in order to build a strong foundation and bricks for Tucta which is the house to thrive.
Q: How do you compare the present Tucta and that of your time?
Trade unions are very silent as if they are absent. However, they should be aware that their duties are not restricted to demand for pay rise.
Trade unions are part and parcel of the community, therefore there are many issues touching their members and the community including imposed tax on mobile money transfer.
However, trade unions and Tucta have opted to remain quiet without speaking on behalf of workers and Tanzanians.
The same happens to declared property tax paid through the Tanzania National Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) prepaid meters processes.
This is a huge weakness of leaders, something that couldn’t be the case during my leadership when trade unions such as the Tanzania Union of Government and Health Employees (Tughe); the Tanzania Local Government Workers Union (Talgwu); the Communication and Transport Workers’ Union of Tanzania (Cowtu) had powerful leaders.
During that time we formed a committee of 10 trade union leaders that stood firm the moment we declared our strike.
However, leaders nowadays have been protecting their interests instead of being aggressive for the interest of workers.
They are silent even on important issues such as the sacking of public employees with Standard Seven level of education and disbandment of the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA).
SSRA has been enacted by Parliament has been disbanded despite the pending issue of the pension formula that has been left in the hands of a committee instead of being worked professionally.
Q: Did the state try to control trade unions during your leadership?
Yes, such efforts were evident. However, those efforts are not there now, making it an appropriate moment for trade unions to elect powerful leaders who will significantly advocate their welfare.
Workers shouldn’t be disappointed, rather they should intensify struggles to completely overhaul trade unions and reinstate their role as advocates for their rights. During my term in office, we struggled to address problems impeding workers welfare in the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (Osha), the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) and Higher Education Students Loans Board (HESLB).
We rejected the Tanzania Commission for Universities (TCU) choice of courses pursued by students and sought a representative position in the commission.
Current leaders have only been working on salary rise; despite advice to work on reduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) that is 18 percent as compared to our Kenyan that charges 16 percent.
This is despite the fact that the two countries are located in the same region, sharing membership in the East African Community and the common market.
However, in order to significantly address the pay rise, their focus was supposed to ensure meetings of the salary boards are convened regularly.
Q: Did Tucta of your time efficiently fulfil its responsibilities to advocate workers welfare?
Indeed, we built a strong foundation for our successors to excel, but their approach is failing them.
Leaders of most trade unions are not prepared to serve and protect the welfare of workers. Despite the role of education in struggles of trade unions, advocacy spirit makes someone a good leader. For instance, the former leaders of the Tanzania Teachers Union (TTU) planned to build one storey building in every region; however, the project has stalled after they have left the offices.
Q: You served Tucta at a moment of trials to some Tanzanians such as the former Medical Association of Tanzania (Mat) President, Dr Steven Ulimboka and senior journalists Absalom Kibanda and Saed Kubenea. How did you survive?
Probably, I was lucky or praying hard served me. Despite the fact that there is no direct incident of reference, I had been informed of people who trailed me at the Tucta headquarters.
Q: What is your take on the implementation of the country’s industrial agenda?
The concept is good, however our focus should be on building value-addition firms that would use locally produced agricultural raw materials such as avocado, tomatoes, maize, cashews, sisal, banana, sugarcane etc instead of those that would require imported raw materials. We haven’t done enough in value addition processing and improving packaging of our products, something that would attract massive investment in agro processing.
More processing apart from creating jobs, they will increase members of trade unions, something that will later strengthen the congress.
Q: How did you leave Tucta and the secret behind your silence?
I left Tucta in 2016 after an election that was marred by irregularities and started my struggles for retirement benefits after serving the congress for 10 years.
I took the matter to the CMA in 2018 and later to the Labour Court where an agreement on the amount I’m supposed to be paid was signed.
However, a very small amount of it has been paid. The problem with Tucta is that trade unions are not respectful to the congress constitution requiring them to make a five percent monthly contribution. It is as if parents have abandoned a child.
I once suggested that idle buildings and plots belonged to the congress should be sold to enable the congress to service staggering debts, but the idea that was accepted initially and later dropped
Q: Where is Mr Mgaya and what is he doing?
I’m living in Dar es Salaam, engaged in agriculture and livestock activities, somewhere in Handeni and Muheza districts.
Though the activities could have paid me handsomely, the lack of capital due to Tucta’s failure to pay my retirement benefits in full has adversely derailed my progress and expectations.