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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Burundi

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Burundi, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec8932.html [accessed 13 July 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: 8,300,000
Capital: Bujumbura
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade union rights were constantly violated in 2009, and there were repeated cases of intimidation. A trade union leader spent nearly 10 months in prison, while two others received death threats. Union activities in the public sector are strictly regulated.

Trade union rights in law

Despite basic trade union rights being recognised in the Constitution and the Labour Code, numerous excessive restrictions apply. All unions must have at least 50 members, and all union representatives must have worked in the sector for at least one year. Freedom of association in the public sector is regulated by Law No. 1/015 of 29 November 2002, which stipulates that for civil servants' unions to be recognised, they must be registered with the Civil Service Ministry, which is their employer.

Although the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed in the Labour Code, bargaining on wages is not possible in the public sector as the government sets wages.

Though the Constitution recognises the right to strike, workers can only go on strike when, and if, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security says it is satisfied that they have exhausted all other means of dispute resolution. This effectively gives the Ministry the power to veto all strikes. Finally, in the public sector, solidarity strikes are prohibited, and the government can requisition striking workers.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: In April the National Liberation Force (FNL) became the last rebel group to surrender arms. An electoral calendar was set for 2010, but the quest for power continued, leaving many murders and atrocities in its wake. Civil society organisations were frequently targeted.

Right to strike flouted: The authorities only responded to a few of the public sector unions' demands, and often after long and exhausting strikes. In September, pay was illegally withheld from strikers in the education sector. Over the last few years, the government has declared several strikes illegal, citing in particular the harm they could do to the national economy. The trade unions are also regularly accused of being in the pay of the opposition parties.

Attempt to ambush trade union leader: During the evening of 17 January, Eulalie Nibizi, president of the Education Workers' Union of Burundi (STEB), escaped an ambush set up half way between her workplace and her home. On the same day, at a pro-government meeting, direct threats had been made against her. The trade union leader had often denounced trade union rights violations in her country (see the 2008 Annual Survey).

Trade unionist spends nearly ten months in prison: On 9 July, Juvénal Rududura, vice-president of the Non-magistrates Staff of the Ministry of Justice (SPMJB), affiliated to the Confederation of Trade Unions of Burundi (COSYBU), was given a provisional release. He had been arrested on 15 September 2008 after a television appearance in which he denounced anti-union repression and malpractice in recruitment. Shortly before that, in May and June 2008, a strike by 1,600 judicial assistants had paralysed the courts. The strikers were demanding that the government honour its promise of a pay rise. The authorities decided to transfer all the union leaders in order to break the strike.

Threats against health workers' union leader: The Doctors Free Trade Union of Burundi (SYMEBU) and the General Medical Practitioners Union of Burundi (SYMEGEB) accused the government of planning the assassination or imprisonment of Pierre Claver Hajayandi, president of the SYMEBU. On 10 July two men on a motorbike tried to kill him at the end of the day in the centre of the capital.

Anti-union manoeuvres in the public sector: Unions in the health and education sectors complained of anti-union manoeuvres by the authorities, such as blocking the payment of union dues to prevent them from functioning correctly. Intimidation was also frequent. In October, for example, the Director of the Burundi Tea Office (OTB) threatened to dismiss members of the Tea Producers Workers' Union (SYTRATE) if they went on strike, describing the union's activities as illegal. Trade unions also saw death threats made against their leaders.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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