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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Guinea

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 - Guinea, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca8dc.html [accessed 22 August 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: 9,400,000
Capital: Conakry
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

A general strike early in the year took a high toll on the population as a whole and trade unions in particular: 129 dead and at least 1,700 injured, according to official figures. Leading the struggle for social change throughout the period on the basis of a platform of legitimate demands, the unions were targeted by blows, threats and bullets.

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. However, 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 and Violations in 2007

Background: Despite having vast reserves of iron, bauxite and precious stones, Guinea has seen an increase in poverty in recent years, mainly as a result of corruption. In 2006, the NGO Transparency International ranked Guinea as the most corrupt country in Africa. On 16 December 2006, the release – by order of President Conté – of a former leader of the employers' association and a former minister, both of whom had been indicted for embezzlement, fuelled civil unrest. Showing an unprecedented degree of unity, the trade union movement unanimously regarded this as a further act of provocation, following the violent repression of the general strike in June 2006 and the government's continuing failure to deliver on its promises to increase wages, contain prices and ensure good governance.

Repression claims its first victims: On 10 January the unions called a general strike in protest against the disastrous economic situation and the interference of the executive branch in judicial affairs. The united front was formed by the two main trade union centres, namely the Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs Guinéens (CNTG, National Confederation of Guinean Workers) and the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Guinée (USTG, Union of Guinean Workers), joined together in the Intersyndicale (Inter-Union Organisation), which was broadened to include the Organisation Nationale des Syndicats Libres (ONSLG, National Organisation of Free Unions) and the Union Démocratique des Travailleurs de Guinée (UDTG). Following a few days' stand-off during which no major incidents took place, a number of peaceful demonstrations were held in several cities across the country. The security forces immediately cracked down on the mass movement, claiming their first victim – a ten-year old child mortally wounded by a stray bullet – on 17 January. CNTG General Secretary Rabiatou Diallo received a bullet wound. Dozens of demonstrators, including several union leaders, were arrested for several hours. On the same day, several Intersyndicale leaders held a meeting with President Conté during which he hurled insults and death threats at them before allowing them to leave. In the following days, the wave of repression claimed eight more victims.

Approximately 40 strikers killed – union leaders beaten and arrested: On 22 January the police unleashed unprecedented violence on the civilian population. In Conakry, during a demonstration which brought together tens of thousands of people in response to a joint call by the Intersyndicale and a number of civil society organisations, the security forces fired on the crowds, killing some 40 participants and wounding approximately another 300. The headquarters of the CNTG at the Labour Exchange were ransacked by "Red Berets", i.e. members of the Presidential Guard, apparently under the command of the President's son, Captain Ousmane Conté. Participating union members were ill-treated and arrested. Among them were numerous leaders, including CNTG General Secretary Rabiatou Diallo and USTG General Secretary Ibrahima Fofana, who was beaten up and threatened with death. However, the union leaders were freed in the evening and some of them held a brief meeting with the President.

On 27 January the strike was called off, following the conclusion of an agreement between the government, the employers and the unions. The agreement provided for the appointment of a "consensus prime minister" with broader powers as well as for a range of economic and social measures and the release of all those still in detention following the general strike, i.e. at least 13 strikers.

Another provocation from the President, leading to further violence and declaration of "state of siege": On 9 February, President Conté appointed a member of his entourage, Eugène Camara, as prime minister. This move caused a wave of popular outrage, with thousand of demonstrators taking to the streets in protest. Violence flared up again and troops fired point blank on demonstrators, leaving more than 20 dead during the weekend following the appointment of Camara. The broadened Intersyndicale called for another general strike to begin on Monday 12 February. On the same day, the authorities declared a "state of siege", which limits civil liberties and imposes a daily 18-hour curfew. Over the next few days, the security forces carried out "searches" which served as a pretext for further abuses and acts of intimidation. Robberies, violence, rape and murder were committed with impunity.

Government fails to impose general requisition of labour and accepts solution to political crisis: On 23 February, the National Assembly rejected the President's request to extend the state of siege. The Chief of Staff of the Army and Prime Minister Eugène Camara – appointed by the President but rejected by the unions, civil society and the population at large – "decided" that work should resume on 26 February. The Prime Minister stressed that this was a "requisition". The leaders of the Intersyndicale responded by calling for the continuation of the strike. However, on 25 February, under pressure from street protests and also urged by mediators from the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS), President Conté finally agreed to dismiss the unpopular prime minister and choose his replacement from among a list of candidates nominated by civil society and the unions. The strike was called off, and next day Lansana Kouyaté was appointed prime minister. A month later, a consensus government was formed. The official toll of the violence was at least 129 dead and more than 1,700 wounded, many by gunfire.

Trade union leaders threatened: During the night between 12 and 13 July, men wearing military uniforms broke into the home of USTG General Secretary Ibrahima Fofana during his absence. They fired a number of shots, ransacked the place and stole money. In April, Rabiatou Diallo's plantation was burned. In both cases, there are strong reasons to believe that the two union leaders were deliberately targeted. During a press conference held on 19 July, the Intersyndicale called on the population to "stand up to the forces that oppose change". Many trade unionists suspect that the violence and night-time attacks perpetrated against them were instigated by former ministers. At any rate, by the end of the year the Enquiry Committee which was supposed to investigate the abuses committed during the January and February events was still not operational.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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