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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Togo

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Togo, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8891f23.html [accessed 19 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: 6,028,000
Capital: Lomé

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 120

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

In spite of mass action against serious violations of the labour legislation and trade union rights at the Sprukfield pharmaceutical factory in the export processing zone, and the signing of an agreement in May, the majority of the 120 employees have still not been reinstated.

Background

Fuel price increases gave rise to bitter tensions in a country where 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. Togo saw an easing of political tensions after many difficult years.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Widespread abuses in export processing zone: Three trade unions were recently set up in the export processing zone (EPZ). The obstacles to their formation and operation have, however, 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 or so firms in the EPZ 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. As a result, the exemptions regarding dismissal, arbitration and dispute settlement remained in force, to the workers' detriment.

Implementation of amended law on export processing zones overdue: The government amended the 1989 law governing export processing zones, with the stated aim of ensuring better respect for the labour legislation in this sector, but has not yet taken steps to bring the new law into force. In October, COSYNTRAZOFT, the umbrella organisation grouping EPZ labour unions, made an urgent appeal to the authorities to implement the law. Conditions in the export processing zone are characterised by countless workers' rights violations: unfair dismissals, working hours exceeding the legal limit, non-compliance with statutory leave and social security obligations, and the obstruction of trade union activities.

Violations

Majority of 120 unfairly dismissed strikers still not reinstated:

On 27 May, following months of intense action, COSYNTRAZOFT, the umbrella organisation grouping EPZ workers' unions, managed to secure a tripartite agreement providing for the progressive reinstatement, starting in June, of the Sprukfield workers that had been unfairly dismissed at the end of 2010. By the end of 2011, however, only a handful of people had been allowed to return to their posts, after writing a letter of apology. The management persistently flouted the law throughout the year. The Association of Export Processing Zone Employers also used all kinds of delaying tactics to prevent a settlement of the dispute. The appalling working conditions at the Sprukfield pharmaceutical plant had given rise to a serious labour dispute at the end of 2010.

After management refused to negotiate with workplace representatives and then refused to accept their strike notice, 120 employees out of the total workforce of 132 downed tools on 9 November 2010. The EPZ management's subsequent offer to mediate raised the workers' hopes of a fair outcome. On 3 December, however, it confirmed Sprukfield's request to dismiss the three SYNATRAZOFT representatives, Fayossey Koffi Agbegna, Panema Hezo and Kangbeni Delphine. The other workers who had taken part in the strike were also sacked, but received no formal notice of their dismissal.

Conditions at Sprukfield are characterised by excessively long working hours, unpaid night work, no paid leave and no social security. Its employees have to work on machines for over nine hours a day, six days a week, without being paid the corresponding overtime at the legally established rate. None of them have ever benefitted from paid leave or maternity leave. They do not have employment contracts and the employer refuses to recognise their union representatives. The company does not issue wage slips, does not take the appropriate safety measures and only makes contributions to the Social Security Fund for two percent of its employees.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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