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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Togo

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Togo, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661dec.html [accessed 10 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: 6,600,000
Capital: Lomé
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The Labour Ministry tried hard to improve social dialogue and guarantee good industrial relations. However, when faced with industrial unrest, both public and private employers prove reluctant to allow freedom of association and collective bargaining. Workers and trade union rights are continually flouted, particularly in private education and the export processing zone.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

While the Constitution guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike, excessive restrictions still apply.

The Labour Code of 2006 extends the right to hold union office to migrant workers legally established in the country, and specifically stipulates that the consent of a spouse is not needed to join a union, a provision that facilitates the right of women to organise. However, workers in export processing zones do not enjoy the same trade union rights as workers outside the zones. Furthermore, the Labour Code stipulates that the dismissal of union representatives require the consent of the labour inspectorate. Although anti-union discrimination is prohibited, there are no provisions protecting strikers against employer retaliation.

While the right to collective bargaining is recognised, it is limited to a single nationwide agreement that must be negotiated and endorsed by the government as well as trade unions and employers. Finally, public sector health workers are not allowed to strike.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: On 4 March Faure Gnassingbé was re-elected in a presidential ballot marred by irregularities. Living conditions further deteriorated as the price of basic goods soared. The authorities harshly repressed several demonstrations. In December, the IMF and the World Bank announced that the country had reached the completion point under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and could therefore allocate more of its limited resources to priorities such as social needs and renovating infrastructure. Togo celebrated 50 years of independence.

Unions created in export processing zone, but many abuses persist: Three trade unions were recently created in the country's export processing zone. However the difficulties they encountered in their formation and in just being able to function underlined the contradictions and vagueness of the regulations governing workers rights in the zone. The majority of the 9,000 workers (60% women) employed in the 60 enterprises of the zone continued to be deprived of their most basic rights. There is no general framework for consultation and the unions were not involved in the review of the legal texts governing the free trade zone. Hence the exemptions regarding dismissal, arbitration and dispute settlement remained, to the detriment of the workers.

Unions still waiting for real social dialogue: National trade union centres demanded a resumption of social dialogue several times during the year, as well as the full implementation of the protocol signed by the social partners in 2006. Out of the 125 commitments made aimed at resolving serious shortcomings in terms of economic, social and cultural rights, barely 30 have been implemented. Only an emergency seems to galvanise the authorities into negotiating with the unions. In June a sharp rise in fuel prices led to strong social unrest. After announcing a general strike, the five major trade union centres obtained a small fall in fuel prices during a crisis meeting of the National Council for Social Dialogue. The discontent continued however.

Teachers' union leader dismissed: On 29 July Kokou Pognon, a teacher and the General Secretary of the National Union of Lay and Denominational Teachers (SYNESPLAC-TOGO), was dismissed by the "Nouvelle constellation" school for taking part in trade union training seminars, even though the National Workers' Trade Union Confederation of Togo (CSTT) had sought permission, in line with the labour code. In October SYNESPLAC-TOGO and several other teachers' unions had denounced the lower quality working conditions in private schools and the refusal to allow trade union activities.

Three union officials formally sacked and strikers effectively dismissed by pharmaceutical company in export processing zones: Poor working conditions at the Sprukfield pharmaceuticals factory led to a serious industrial dispute there at the end of the year. After management refused to negotiate with the representatives of staff belonging to the SYNATRAZOFT union or to accept their notice of strike action, 120 employees out of the total workforce of 132 stopped work on 9 November. Workers were hopeful after the zone's management offered to mediate. However, on 3 December it confirmed the request by Sprukfield to dismiss the three SYNATRAZOFT representatives, Fayossey Koffi Agbegna, Panema Hezo and Kangbeni Delphine. The remaining workers who had taken part in the strike also found themselves out of work, but with no formal notice of dismissal.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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