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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cameroon

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 - Cameroon, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca3cc.html [accessed 28 December 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: 16,600,000
Capital: Yaoundé
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Road workers were dismissed for going on strike, and their organiser was arrested. The leader of the pharmaceutical workers' federation was dismissed for his trade union activities. Cumbersome procedures for calling a strike remain in place, with heavy sanctions for failing to meet them.

Trade union rights in law

Government authorisation: The 1996 constitution of Cameroon guarantees the freedom of association and the right to strike, and both rights are set out in the 1992 Labour Code. It is illegal to form a union that includes both public and private sector workers. However the Labour Code provides for prison sentences and fines for workers who form a trade union and carry out trade union activities without a registration certificate from the Union Registrar.

The Labour Code is not applicable to members of the public service, judges, military, national intelligence, prison administration and auxiliary administrative personnel. Public servants may form trade unions, but must have the prior approval of the Minister for Territorial Administration and may not affiliate internationally without obtaining prior authorisation. The ILO has urged the government to amend its legislation to ensure that public service workers can form unions without government authorisation.

The law prohibits anti-union discrimination and allows fines to be levied against employers convicted of this, but does not provide for any restitution in the form of reinstatement or compensation to the wrongfully dismissed workers.

Limitations on the right to strike: The Constitution and the Labour Code recognise workers' right to strike, but only after mandatory arbitration. Ignoring the procedure can be sanctioned by immediate dismissal and fines. Certain sectors have to provide a minimum service, including transport and postal services, which do not fall within the ILO definition of essential services. Civil servants do not have the right to strike.

Bargaining – enforcement measures weak: The law provides for collective bargaining between workers and management, as well as between trade union federations and employers' associations, but the legal mechanisms for applying collective agreements are ineffectual.

Export processing zones (EPZs): Firms operating in the EPZs are exempt from certain aspects of the Labour Code, but must comply with internationally recognised labour standards. An official notice from the National Office for Industrial Free Zones contains a list of "incentives". It also states that employers enjoy "flexibility in hiring/firing workers".

Trade union rights in practice

Government interference: The government interferes in trade union activities in several ways. The government has a reputation for favouring those workers' organisations it sees as easier to control and has used union registration requirements as a means to withhold recognition from trade unions that it considers to be too independent. One clear example is that the public service confederation has, since its creation in 2000, been one of the six trade union centres in Cameroon that have still not been recognised. Similarly when industrial disputes arise, the government chooses the union with which it will negotiate.

The government sometimes demands that workers setting up a union produce job descriptions signed by the employer before a union can be registered. This makes it impossible for workers in the informal economy and independent or self-employed workers to form a union.

Only the most representative trade union centres, based on union election results, may take part in the national social dialogue. Smaller, independent unions are excluded.

Collective bargaining almost non-existent: Collective bargaining is almost non-existent. No formal collective bargaining negotiations have taken place since 1996. One of the major union confederations acknowledges that social dialogue does exist, but that the outcome of the negotiations are rarely honoured. Some agreements with the government have been shelved or ignored by the government after being negotiated.

Violations in 2006

Background: The firm grip exerted by President Paul Biya and his followers on all of the state's structures continued, and there were signs that corruption was rife.

Mass dismissal for striking: In January 2006, some 163 people working on the road connecting Yaoundé in Cameroon and Moundou in Chad were fired for organising a strike. The workers had gone on strike to protest against their working conditions and demand an accommodation allowance.

Union leader arrested and detained: The spokesperson of the 163 road construction workers who had been fired in January 2006 for organising a strike was arrested in Yaoundé on 22 May 2006. His arrest followed a visit to the site where the workers had been fired. Barnabé Paho, of the Confédération Syndicale des Travailleurs du Cameroun (Confederation of Cameroon Trade Unions CCTU/CSTC) was accused by his former employer DTP Terassement, part of the French group Bouygues, of forgery. He was transferred to Tchollire, more than thousand kilometres from where he was arrested and was held in detention for one week without questioning. He was released unconditionally.

General Secretary of union federation fired: In June 2006, Jean Marie N'Di, the General Secretary of the Fédération des Syndicats de la Santé, Pharmacies et Assimilés (health and pharmaceutical workers' union FSESPAC), an affiliate of Public Services International (PSI), was fired by the Fondation Medicale AD-LUCEM because of his trade union activities.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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