The Industrial and Labour Relations Act (ILRA) in Zambia provides the legal framework for the relationship between employers and trade unions and their responsibilities towards each other and their employees. Section 63 to 65 of the ILRA outlines the duty of employers and trade unions to enter into a recognition agreement, which formalizes their relationship and ensures that workers' rights are protected. The recognition agreement is a legal document that outlines the rights and obligations of both the trade union and the employer and sets the terms and conditions for the parties to be able to further negotiate for working conditions, wages, and benefits. It is an essential document that provides a framework for negotiations, dispute resolution, and collective bargaining, and enables employees' representation and participation in the decision-making process.


Part VII Section 63 of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act states that (1) Every employer employing twenty-five or more eligible employees, or such lesser number as may be prescribed by the Minister, shall register himself with the Commissioner within a period not exceeding three months from the date of coming into operation of this section or, from the date upon which this section becomes applicable to the employer, as the case may be. 
This entails that when an employer registers a company and has twenty-five (25) or more employees, three months after such registration, that employer shall allow his/her employees to form or join a Trade Union of their choice. 
Therefore, as per section 64 (1) Not later than three months from the date of registration under section sixty-three a registered employer and a trade union, if any, to which the employees belong, shall enter into a recognition agreement. 
In the event that the parties fail to reach agreement and conclude on the recognition agreement, Section 64, sub section 5 guides as follows:
(5) Where the parties referred to in subsection (1) or (2), fail to conclude a recognition agreement under this Part, the failure shall be deemed to be a collective dispute and Part IX shall apply, with the necessary modifications. (As amended by Act No. 30 of 1997) 
65. (1) Every recognition agreement shall be in writing, signed by the representatives of the parties to it and shall provide - Essentials of recognition agreement 
(a) that the employer or employers' organization, as the case may be, has recognized the trade union as representative of, and bargaining agent for, the eligible employees represented by the trade union so recognized for the purpose of regulating relations between the employer or employers' organization and the trade union; 
 	(b) for the rules relating to grievances and bargaining procedures; 
(c) for the methods, procedures and rules under which the agreement may be reviewed, amended, replaced or terminated. 
(2) Three copies of a recognition agreement and of any alterations to the agreement shall be delivered to the Commissioner by the parties to the agreement. 
(3) The Commissioner may, if satisfied that all the conditions of the recognition agreement have been met, register the agreement and shall return a copy each to the parties concerned. (As amended by Act No.30 of 1997)

When An Employers Refuses to Enter into Agreement

If the employer refuses to recognize the trade union, the union may apply to the Industrial Relations Court for a recognition order. The Court will consider various factors, such as the union's support among employees, the history of collective bargaining, and the employer's reasons for refusing recognition, before making a decision.

Case Reference

In the 2018 case between Mbewe Vs. Lumwana Company Limited, the Consolidated Miners and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CMAWUZ) filed a Notice of Complaint stating that the Union had on several occasions approached the Respondent to enter into a recognition, however, the Respondent had deliberately failed and/or neglected to enter into the said recognition agreement. After careful consideration of the facts presented before court, the right honourable judge did order and direct that:
1.	The Respondent should forthwith without fail embark on a process of entering into a recognition agreement with the Complainant, which process should be concluded within thirty (30) days from the date hereof.

2.	That by end of September 2018, the Respondent shall start to remit union member contributions of the concerned employees, through its payroll to the Complainant.

Further, the judge also guided that the issue of employees’ freedoms and rights should not be belittled or trivialized by employers. Employees rights and freedoms like any human rights are not only fundamental and constitutionally protected but have further been restated in the Industrial and Labour Relations Act, Chapter 269 of the Laws of Zambia.


In conclusion, the duty of employers and trade unions to enter into recognition agreements in Zambia is an essential aspect of the country's employment laws. By recognizing and engaging with trade unions, employers can create a stable and productive working relationship with their employees and promote a conducive working environment which is necessary for the overall productivity of the Country. By following the process outlined in the ILRA, both parties can enter into a legally binding recognition agreement that provides clarity, stability, and fairness in the workplace.
Issued By,

Kasapo Sundrea Kabende (Mr.)
Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *