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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Equatorial Guinea

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 - Equatorial Guinea, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52caf0c.html [accessed 23 October 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: 520,000
Capital: Malabo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade union rights are practically impossible to exercise, especially for migrant workers. A strike at a Chinese company was brutally suppressed by the army. Two Chinese workers were killed, around a hundred arrested and over 400 repatriated.

Trade union rights in law

Obstacles to freedom of association: The Constitution provides for the right to establish trade unions. According to the 1992 law on trade unions, however, a union must have at least 50 members from the same workplace and the same geographical area in order to register, which effectively blocks union organising. Section 6 of Act No. 12/1992 stipulates that "the unionisation of public administration officials will be governed by a specific law", which has still not been adopted.

The right to strike and to collective bargaining exist, but there are no provisions protecting workers from acts of anti-union discrimination.

The government ratified several ILO core conventions in 2001, but it has still not adapted its legislation accordingly, despite requests from the ILO.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: In July, President Obiang appointed a new prime minister after having accused the government of bad management and corruption. Several human rights organisations, however, have accused President Obiang of human rights violations. In spite of the country's massive oil revenues and its small population, social inequalities are widening.

Brutal suppression of a strike by Chinese workers: On 25 March, in Mongomo, two Chinese workers were killed and at least four others were injured by Guinean security forces during a strike at a construction site managed by Jianyu Overseas Development Limited, a subsidiary of the Wheihai group. The troops, which had been dispatched in large numbers a few days earlier and had even been storming the workers' dormitories to force them back to work, had arrested several strikers. When the workers resisted, they opened fire, then proceeded to make around a hundred arrests. After ten days in detention, the arrested workers were sent back to China. In the days that followed, over 300 of their colleagues were also sent back. The government of Equatorial Guinea simply referred to the incident as a riot, giving no further explanation, and stated that it did not want this type of revolt in the country. The Chinese authorities, for their part, censured the workers' conduct. According to various sources, this is the first time that Chinese workers have been killed for taking part in a strike in an African country.

Union recognition denied: Despite its legislation, the government does not recognise "independent" trade unions. The authorities have consistently refused to register the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Guinea Ecuatorial (UST, Workers' Union of Equatorial Guinea), which cannot therefore operate openly. The authorities also refused to legalise the independent public sector services union, the Sindicato Independiente de Servicios (SIS). Although it met all the registration criteria, the government objected to the term "independent" in its title. Two other unions, both affiliates of the UST, the Asociación Sindical de Docentes (ASD, Teachers' Union) and the Organización de los Trabajadores del Campo (OTC, Organisation of Rural Workers), have also been denied recognition, on a technicality regarding their statutes. Furthermore, when a notary was asked to certify their statutes so that the unions could meet the registration requirements he reportedly refused, stating that trade unions did not exist in Equatorial Guinea.

Obstacles to union organisation: Although the law provides for the right to organise and bargain collectively, the government places practical obstacles in the way of any attempt to exercise these rights. The government and employers set the wages, with little or no worker participation. There is no evidence of negotiations ever being held. The Labour Ministry does, however, sometimes mediate in labour disputes.

Workplace hazards – protestors risk dismissal: The Labour Code provides for protection from occupational hazards, but since in practice there are no trade unions, employees who protest against unhealthy or dangerous working conditions risk losing their jobs.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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