Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 14:57 GMT

2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Burundi

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Burundi, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca3dc.html [accessed 28 August 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: 7,300,000
Capital: Bujumbura
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unions reported regular harassment during the year, including the arrest of five union representatives for organising a strike at the University of Burundi in December.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Labour Code allows workers to form unions, except those in the army and police, while section 14 of the Labour Code excludes state employees and magistrates from the scope of the Code (see below).

There are restrictions for workers under 18 years of age who can only join with permission from their guardians or parents, although the government has promised to amend this.

Severe restrictions in the civil service: The right to organise and the right to strike in the civil service are regulated by Law No. 1/015 of 29 November 2002. The national trade union centre COSYBU says that, until the promulgation of this law, the country's legislation was in line with the general principles of freedom of association and the right to strike. This law contains many violations of these. Notably, it bans solidarity strikes, permits requisition orders in the event of strike action, and says that for civil servants' unions to be recognised, they must be registered with the Civil Service Ministry – which is their employer.

Magistrates: Magistrates are governed by the regulations contained in Act 1/001 of February 2000, but this contains no express reference to magistrates' right of association.

Restrictions on elections of trade union leaders: Those wanting to stand for union office must have worked in the sector for more than a year. The government has promised it will review this.

Collective bargaining: The Labour Code recognises the right to collective bargaining. In the public sector, however, wages are excluded from bargaining, as they are set according to fixed scales (following consultation with the unions).

Restricted right to strike: Workers can go on strike, but only when, and if, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security says it is satisfied that they have exhausted all other peaceful means to resolve a dispute, effectively giving the Ministry the power to veto all strikes. The workers must then give their employer six days' notice.

Trade union rights in practice

Government interference in trade union affairs: In recent years, the government has refused to recognise the results of trade union leadership elections and has also prevented the union confederation, COSYBU, from choosing who should represent Burundi's workers at the ILO.

There have been repeated allegations that the government will not permit trade union bodies to choose their own representatives to the country's tripartite National Labour Council, paralysing its work since 2000.

On several occasions, the government has declared strikes illegal on the grounds that they would damage the national economy and support enemies of the government. The ILO has repeatedly emphasised that economic concerns cannot justify restricting freedom of association in this way. Several trade union leaders have been imprisoned or suspended from their work over the last six years following strike action. The teachers' union, Syndicat des Travailleurs de l'Enseignement du Burundi (STEB), is not allowed to hold any general meetings without first notifying the town hall, which is contrary to the principles of freedom of association.

Private sector anti-union: Many private sector employers systematically prevent the creation of trade unions, while the government fails to protect workers from anti-union employers.

Most workers in Burundi perform informal and unregulated work, and enjoy no trade union rights.

Violations in 2006

Background: Burundi's remaining active rebel group, the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) and the Burundi government signed a peace agreement in September 2006, ending a 13-year civil war. Burundi was accepted into the East African Community in 2006.

Five union members arrested for coordinating a strike: On 14 December 2006, five trade union leaders representing non-teaching staff were arrested on the premises of the University of Burundi for organising a strike to demand better working and living conditions. The arrests were apparently motivated by their "bad behaviour" during the strike, including cutting off the electricity supply, which the strikers denied. They were released from custody on 18 December. The strike was continuing at the end of the year. Unions in Burundi reported an increase in harassment of trade unionists during the last few months of the year.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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