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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
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: 64,700,000
Capital: Kinshasa
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Employers in both the public and private sectors showed wide-scale hostility towards the unions, preventing them from operating normally, violating or refusing to conclude collective bargaining agreements and sacking trade unionists.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: According to the Constitution of February 2006 all workers, except for members of the armed forces, the police and the security services, have the right to join and form a trade union without prior authorisation.

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

Right to strike: The right to strike is recognised, although unions must have prior consent and adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures. The law prohibits employers from taking reprisals against strikers.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The hostilities in the province of North Kivu escalated. At least 250,000 civilians, mainly women and children, were forced to flee, bringing the total number of displaced persons from this region to over a million.

Anti-unionism in the health sector: Workers' representatives in several clinics met with hostility from their employers, who refused any contact with the unions and succeeded in bringing their activities to a halt. The management at the Mongola medical centre, part of the Blattner Group, banned the holding of union meetings in the company and threatened members with dismissal. The situation is no better at the Clinique Emeraude (owned by a government minister, Dr Mashako Mamba), where the workplace representatives have never been allowed to exercise their rights and defend the workers.

Intimidation and sanctions in the education sector: On 1 November, the Catholic school teachers' union, Syndicat des enseignants des écoles catholiques (SYNECAT), was forced to call off a strike that had lasted 60 days. The union reported that striking teachers had been pressured, transferred and suspended, and that the strike movement had been "infiltrated".

Strikers arrested and a trade unionist fired: In many companies, the increase in the minimum wage (SMIG) led to or was used as a pretext for staff cuts and attacks on trade union representatives. In November, for example, a national trade union centre, Confédération syndicale du Congo (CSC), denounced the arrest of trade unionists and staff employed at a livestock company (Compagnie pastorale du Haut Lomani/Kiabukwa) in Katanga province. The union had called a strike following the employer's refusal to bring pay levels up to the minimum wage and to review the eight-year-old collective agreement.

At a Chinese company, Cobra Tyre & Rubber, the labour inspector backed the employer in its refusal to apply the minimum wage on grounds that it gave other benefits. The workers and their representatives are in little doubt that the official was bribed. A workplace representative, Moka, affiliated to the democratic labour confederation, Confédération démocratique du travail (CDT), was dismissed on false grounds and unlawfully – the letter of dismissal was not sent to him within the deadline established by law.

Contempt for agreements signed and dismissal of two trade unionists: The management at the Prosanté medical centre had informed the two unions (affiliated to the CDT and Solidarité) that it was going to have to lay off part of its staff owing to financial difficulties. Some weeks later, it reneged on the commitments undertaken and broke the agreement signed with the union in July, whereby six workers would be made redundant and the workplace representatives would not be affected by the cuts in staff. Thirteen of the 24 staff members were "temporarily laid off", including two trade unionists, Mahmud Yusuf and Serge Nsumbu. Shortly afterwards, the company went on to hire 14 new workers. On 1st December, the 13 workers that had been temporarily laid off were fired permanently.

Collective agreements refused and violated: Numerous employers did everything possible to avoid collective bargaining with the unions. Such was the case with telecommunications operator Tigo or the Lebanese company Strippes (artificial hair manufacturer), which even tried to downgrade the workers' rights by unilaterally reformulating the provisions negotiated. The import-export company Orgaman, for its part, had concluded a collective agreement in 2003 that provided for regular meetings. This provision was not respected and the employer was able to dismiss over 70 workers ahead of the application of the new minimum wage without consulting the union or allowing it to intervene.

Sham unions in the private sector: Most of the unions in the private sector, which are largely in the natural resources industry, have no members and have been set up by the employers in a bid to deceive 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, although many of its employees are affiliated to union centres. Such elections can only be held in public enterprises.

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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