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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca9ac.html [accessed 24 April 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: 62,600,000
Capital: Kinshasa
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Demands for the payment of wage arrears have repeatedly led to the arrest and detention of trade union officials, sometimes for several weeks. A trade unionist sustained bullet wounds during an industrial dispute in the mining sector.

Trade union rights in law

The new Constitution of February 2006 guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike. The legislation grants all categories of workers, except for members of the armed forces, the police and the security services, the right to organise. No prior authorisation is required to set up a trade union. The right to strike is recognised, although unions must have prior consent and adhere to lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against strikers.

Collective bargaining: The right to bargain collectively is also recognised. In the private sector, unions negotiate with the government and employers in the National Employment Council (Conseil National du Travail). The government confirms the results of these negotiations in decrees. In the public sector, however, the government sets wages by decree. The government is required to consult the unions in advance, but not to negotiate with them. It is therefore able to ignore their recommendations.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: Following the general elections last year, a new government was formed in February 2007. However, the democratic process is very fragile. Violent confrontations in March resulted in 600 dead in Kinshasa. The authority of the State is still very weak in many regions, particularly in the North and South Kivu provinces, which are facing insecurity and a serious humanitarian crisis.

Union leader arrested in the transport industry: Léon Ngoy Bululu, Vice-President of ITF affiliate Solidarité syndicale des travailleurs et cadres du Congo, was arrested on 20 April, a few days after a TV appearance during which he spoke out against the mismanagement of the transport operating company Office national des transports (ONATRA), whose workforce had not been paid for four months. He was freed on 15 May without any charges being brought against him.

Arrests and violence during a strike in the mining industry: In mid-May, during a strike at the Bakwanga mining company (MIBA) in Tshimpaka, an activist of ICEM affiliate SYTRAME became a victim of police repression. He was hit by a bullet in the leg and was subsequently trampled upon when the police charged the strikers. Another leading member of SYTRAME, Ngandu Ntumba, was held in custody for 48 hours. Work resumed on 9 May, after the striking workers received part of the seven-month wage arrears.

Nine trade unionists dismissed in the press sector ... : In February, nine trade union representatives at the private television channel Raga, in Kinshasa, were dismissed "for serious misconduct" by Raga Director Parag Bhimjihany. The union had recently organised a strike to demand better working conditions. A labour inspector authorised the dismissal, without prior notice, of the nine union activists. During the night of 29 May, a few hours after the journalists at Raga had held another work stoppage to protest against the retaliatory dismissal of their colleagues, a group of armed men fired a shot into the bedroom of Raga union President Fabien Lumbala, one of the nine victimised strikers. In June, the dismissals were revoked by a decree of the Labour Minister ordering the immediate reinstatement of all the workers except Fabien Lumbala, who was suspended for 15 days "for poor leadership".

... and three others arrested: On 26-27 July, journalists Vincent Hata, Michel Shango and Eugène Risasi, of the public service broadcasting network Radiotélévision nationale congolaise (RTNC) – all of whom are members of the Syndicat national des professionnels de la presse (NSPP) – were arrested whilst organising a general meeting of the workforce of the public service network, following the breakdown of negotiations with the employers on the non-payment of bonuses. After spending their first night in detention at a military camp of the Republican Guard, the journalists were transferred to the police Directorate of Intelligence and Special Services (DRGS), where they were subjected to ill-treatment. There, they also learned that they were accused of "insulting and defamatory acts and utterances against the Head of State as well as of attempting to destabilise RTNC and discrediting the government by organising a strike". Vincent Hata and Michel Shango were released on bail on 11 August, following Eugène Risasi's release on 31 July.

Arrest of three activists at Kinshasa International Fair: Jean-Benoît Ntando, General Secretary of the Organisation des travailleurs unis du Congo (OTUC), which is affiliated to ICEM, and two other activists were arrested on 22 May during a demonstration organised by the employees of Kinshasa International Fair (FIKIN). They were released two days later. The OTUC's main demand concerned wage arrears which, despite the employers' promises, in some cases dated back 16 months. The union was also protesting against the unfair dismissal of several workers and management's refusal to consult the union on important decisions, in contravention of the company's articles of association.

Sham unions in private sector: According to Solidarity Center, most of the 400 unions in the private sector, mainly in the natural resources industry, have no members and have been set up by the employers in an attempt to hoodwink the workers and discourage the creation of genuine unions.

Rights not respected in the civil service: The government has always refused to allow union elections in the civil service, though the union centres have many members working in it. Only public enterprises organise such elections.

Discrimination against the staff of decentralised administrations: The staff of decentralised administrations (towns, regions and sectors) are not unionised and do not enjoy the rights to bargain or establish a union. They are on the lowest rung of the state administration ladder and, in practice, constitute a sub-category of public servants.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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