2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Guinea
|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 - Guinea, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca2c32.html [accessed 29 May 2016]|
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182
Trade union leaders and activists faced death threats, stalking, police violence and even murder during the year. The two largest unions in the country representing some 80 per cent of public and private sector workers, the Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs de Guinée (CNTG, National Confederation of Guinean Workers) and the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Guinée (USTG, Union of Guinean Workers) organised two nation-wide strikes during 2006, to which the government responded with excessive force, leaving at least 11 dead. The second strike ended after the unions and the government came to an agreement on 16 June 2006.
Trade union rights in law
Freedom of association: The Labour Code allows all workers, except military and paramilitary personnel, the right to form and join trade unions.
Strike limitations: Workers have the right to strike, but must give ten days' notice, and employers can impose binding arbitration.
Strikes are prohibited in essential services, which, as well as hospitals, police and the army, are broadly defined to include transport, radio and television, and communications. These three sectors do not fall under the ILO definition of "essential services" in the strict sense of the term.
No protection from discrimination: The right to collective bargaining is recognised in law. The law does not contain any measures to prevent anti-union discrimination or to protect trade unions against interference by employers.
Trade union rights in practice
Intimidation: Union activities are met with interference and harassment, notably from government officials at the regional and local level, who view all independent unions as opponents of the government. Strikes are rarely carried out because of the intensification of intimidation beforehand. When strikes are, nonetheless, carried out, the police and security services are called to arrest and interrogate union leaders. National strikes in 2006 were met with excessive violence by the police (see Violations below), resulting in as many as 22 deaths.
Violations in 2006
In December 2006 it was announced that EU aid to Guinea would be resumed for the first time in four years, following an end to state control over information and the founding an independent electoral commission. Aid from the European Union had been frozen in 2002 over concerns about the state of democracy in the country and then completely blocked when widely criticised presidential elections in 2003 returned Lansana Conté to power.
Deadly violence against demonstrators: Following a collapse in negotiations with the government over repeated demands for a four-fold increase in wages and pensions, the CNTG and USTG initiated a five-day national strike on 27 February 2006 that brought the country to a halt. Based on interviews with eyewitnesses, Human Rights Watch reported that two persons were injured and one killed when security forces fired on demonstrators.
In early March 2006 the unions announced that an agreement had been reached with the government and employers, giving civil servants a 30% increase in wages – short of union demands – and a 10% reduction of taxes on state employee salaries. A national commission on the stabilisation and control of the price of fuel and other necessities was created after the strikes.
On 22 May the CNTG-USTG inter-union group threatened to call another strike if the government failed to respect the March agreements. On 8 June 2006 the two unions did once more initiate a national strike after discussions with the government on reductions in the price of fuel and rice (the national staple) failed. The nine-day strike again brought the country to a standstill, this time with greater violence being perpetrated by the Guinean security forces.
Death threats: Just before the national strike it was reported that the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Fodé Bangoura, had made death threats to USTG General Secretary Ibrahima Fofana, CNTG First Assistant Secretary General Ahmadou Diallo, and Louis Mbemba Soumah, Secretary General of the Syndicat libre des enseignants et chercheurs de Guinée (SLECG, Free Union of teachers and researchers of Guinea), on the street outside the French Embassy.
Murder: In another disturbing development, a woman was murdered on 24 May in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity. It is believed the intended target had been Hadja Serah Rabiatou Diallo, CNTG Secretary General, who had recently received death threats. The killing took place just after Mrs. Diallo had returned to the country. The victim drove a similar vehicle to Mrs. Diallo, lived close by, and moreover resembled her.
Surveillance: The USTG General Secretary was followed for weeks and one of the persons shadowing him, Yacouba Camara, an agent of the state security department, had been apprehended on 26 May, carrying a pistol, by security guards at a bank where Mr Fofana worked. Camara had been waiting for the union leader when he was apprehended.
Police violence – at least 11 killed: After some 12,000 secondary school teachers joined the strike on 12 June, leading to the postponement of baccalaureate exams, students joined anti-government protests throughout the country. That day the security forces responded by violently suppressing the demonstrations, using teargas and plastic bullets. On 16 June the police confirmed that 11 people had been killed in the violence. However a group of local civil society organisations reported that 21 people had been killed by gunfire from the security forces during the country-wide demonstrations, a figure more widely accepted. Based on interviews with victims and witnesses, Human Rights Watch reported that Guinea's security forces committed murder, rape, assault and theft against demonstrators and bystanders alike.
The African Union Commission Chairperson, the Presidency of the European Union, and the UN Secretary General issued statements expressing concern at the violence and deaths involved after the violent suppression of demonstrators in June 2006. As Philip Jennings, General Secretary of Union Network International (UNI, Global Unions) noted, the police and government repression was "aimed to prohibit and weaken the possibilities for action and negotiation of the CNTG and USTG."
The CNTG and USTG called off the strike on 16 June after the government agreed to salary increases for public sector workers; small increases in transport and rent allowances; a decrease in the price of rice; giving permanent status to some 12,000 teachers on contract work; and accepting that unions participate in any meetings held to raise or lower fuel costs. USTG Secretary General Ibrahima Fofana said "this is to show the Guinean people and the world at large that we are a trade union organisation and not a political party. We instituted our action in the name of workers, and we are calling it off in their name as well."