Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November 2014, 09:28 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Gabon

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Gabon, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8894f2.html [accessed 27 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 1,500,000
Capital: Libreville

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 2

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Freedom of association, in theory guaranteed by law, came under attack because of the obstinacy of a handful of individuals abusing their power, as was the case in the long-running dispute between the teachers' unions and their Minister. The trade unions called on the authorities to engage in genuine social dialogue in all sectors and at all levels.

Background

President Ali Bongo's Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) won 114 of the 120 seats in the National Assembly in December following elections boycotted by much of the opposition.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association and the right to strike are guaranteed in the Constitution. However, the provisions in the Labour Code are somewhat lacking, although public servants have the right to organise. Anti-union discrimination is not expressly prohibited in law, but the courts can award compensation to employees who have been victims of such discrimination.

The authorities are not permitted to interfere in lawful strikes, which must be preceded by arbitration. Although workers in the public sector have the right to call a strike, it can be restricted if deemed to pose a threat to public safety.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Abuse of trade union rights denounced: In June, the Gabonese national trade union centres decried the lack of political will shown by the government to establish real social dialogue, which had led to endless strikes in many sectors. They also deplored the intimidation of trade unions, accused by the authorities of being in the pay of the political parties, as well as obsolete collective agreements in the private sector, the non-implementation of agreements in the public sector and the Education Ministry's aggressive attitude towards trade unions. The national trade union centres also called for workplace elections to be held quickly.

Oil workers up in arms: Feared by the authorities for their capacity to exert a stranglehold on the Gabonese economy heavily dependent on oil revenues, the National Organisation of Petroleum Employees (ONEP) explained the reasons for its industrial action during the year, namely the highly precarious nature of employment in the industry, the abusive and illegal use of fixed term contracts, the proliferation of sub-contractors and outdated collective agreements that no longer matched the socio-economic reality. One of ONEP's principal demands, together with several other unions, concerned the abusive and illegal use of foreign workers who were paid up to 20 times more for the same skills. In April a four day strike brought the country to a virtual standstill and cost the Gabonese state the equivalent of 90 million euros, according to ONEP.

Violations

Libreville Town Hall union leaders still out of work, with wages unpaid: One year after being imprisoned without trial then cleared of the charges against them, Alexandre Nzengui and Olui Nzué Memine, leaders of the Coalition of the Libreville Town Hall Unions (CCSL) had still not been reinstated in their jobs and had not received their unpaid wages. They were held in preventive detention from 22 July to 27 October 2010 for "obstructing the freedom to work" and "destruction of the real estate of a third party". The arrests took place against a background of tense industrial relations. The municipal employees had carried out several strikes to protest against delays in paying their salaries and the non-payment of social charges, deducted at source by the Town Hall. In April 2010, strikers had placed, in the main hall of the Town Hall, the body of a colleague who had died, they claimed, because he had not received the care he needed due to the delayed payments.

Education Minister hostile to unions: On 1 September the battle-weary National Convention of Education Trade Unions (CONASYSED) called off the strike it had begun in April. The following day the union pledged its support for nine trade union leaders as they began a hunger strike. Clémence Akele Ovono, Jules Bibang Obounou, Désiré Alfred Engone, Simon Ndong Edzo, Louis Patrick Mombo, Alain Mouagouadi, Fridolin Mve Messa, Léa Isabelle Ozoumey and Calvin Tomo Tomo had been brought before a disciplinary board in February for their role in a warning strike that took place in October 2010 (see the 2011 edition of the Survey). Since that time their salaries had been suspended, yet they had received no official notification of the sanction. On 18 September the nine trade union leaders ended their hunger strike after the Prime Minister promised that their salaries would be restored, despite the latest scheming by the Minister for Education, Séraphin Moundounga. In July, Education International (EI) had complained about the anti-union pressure exerted by the Minister ever since he had taken up the post in October 2009.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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