Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Côte d'Ivoire

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 - Côte d'Ivoire, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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: 21,100,000
Capital: Yamoussoukro

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

Injuries: 1
Arrests: 12
Dismissals: 1

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Trade unionists were targeted during the post-electoral violence based on their presumed support for one side or the other, as was the case with the general secretary of the trade union centre DIGNITE and countless other union activists.


The post electoral violence between December 2010 and May 2011 claimed at least 3,000 lives. Over 150 women and girls were raped. Hundreds and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. The former head of state, Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to accept the election results, was arrested in April. His rival, Alassane Ouattara, was sworn in as president on 21 May. In October, he authorised the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to open an inquiry into the crimes committed. In November, Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to The Hague to face trial. He is the first former head of state to be handed over to the ICC. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for impartial justice that also deals with the atrocities carried out by the forces allied to the current president. In December, the ruling coalition won the legislative elections boycotted by the former president's party.

Trade union rights in law

The Constitution of 23 July 2000 guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike in both the private and the public sector, but the guarantees are frustrated by a number of restrictions. Foreigners may not hold union office until they have been residents for at least three years, unless there is a reciprocal trade union and worker protection agreement with the foreigners' home country.

Workers are vulnerable to anti-union discrimination, as the Labour Code does not provide for sufficiently dissuasive sanctions. Also, all labour disputes must go through a complicated conciliation and mediation procedure. The President of the Republic may submit strikes in essential services to arbitration, but the Labour Code does not contain a list of services considered to be essential.

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

In practice

Union divisions encouraged, representativeness undermined: With no objective criteria set down in the labour code, there are no guarantees for the recognition of representative trade unions. This lack of precision has enabled both public and private employers to refuse to negotiate, while discrediting trade unions or repressing their activities. The socio-political chaos has weakened the trade union movement, and dissent has been encouraged in several public sector unions.


DIGNITE general secretary imprisoned:

On 26 April, at around 17.30, Basile Mahan Gahé, general secretary of the trade union centre DIGNITE, was taken away by members of the Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire, who forcibly entered his home, searched and ransacked it, supposedly looking for heavy weapons. The DIGNITE offices were also raided and requisitioned by the army. Basile Mahan Gahé's family were left without any news of his whereabouts for several days. Reports were finally received that he had been recognised at a police station in Williamsville (Abidjan). According to a Red Cross officer who was able to visit him, Basile Mahan Gahé had not been allowed to contact a lawyer, had not been given a decent place to sleep and had not received adequate food and water. He had also been repeatedly maltreated.

On 28 June, the Ivorian trade union centres launched an appeal during an ILO mission to the country, urging the authorities to release the union leader. On 2 July, the ILO delegation was allowed a short visit to the prisoner, who had been transferred to the Pergola hotel, which had been turned into a detention centre.

On 9 July, Basile Mahan Gahé was unexpectedly transferred to Boundiali, in the north of the country, where he was held under extremely harsh conditions (one meal a day, heavy physical regime on an empty stomach in the morning), leading to a rapid deterioration in his health. He was transferred to a local hospital after suffering a heart attack. In early July he was officially charged with a series of state security offences, with violating the sovereignty of the state, organizing armed groups and crimes against property of the state and public and private financial institutions. At the end of 2011, in spite of ITUC and ILO missions that met with the authorities, and the release of several other people arrested under the same circumstances, Basile Mahan Gahé was still being held in detention.

Trade union representative dismissed on false pretences: On 19 August, Jeannot Meleke was dismissed by the manufacturing company Société nouvelle ivoirienne de manufacture (SNIM) in Abidjan, on the pretext that his job was being cut, which proved not to be the case. Jeannot Meleke, who held the position of deputy general secretary, was trying to breathe new life into a union that had already been decapitated in 2010 by a mass dismissal made "on economic grounds", which had removed the general secretary and several other members of the union executive.

Numerous abuses against trade unionists: Several trade union organisations reported abuses against their members. In the education sector, the primary teachers' union Syndicat national des enseignants du primaire public (SNEPPCI) denounced abductions and arbitrary arrests of its members. In August, the secondary teachers' union Syndicat national des enseignants du second degré (SYNESCI) reported arrests in Yamoussoukro. On 27 October, also in Yamoussoukro, Joseph Saraka, the spokesperson for the polytechnic institutes' inter-union grouping and around ten teaching union members were arrested and detained for a number of hours after informing the higher education minister of the urgent need to appoint new, experienced directors, following the disappearance of those holding these posts during the unrest. On 16 September, Mousso David, information and mobilisation secretary of the dockworkers' union Collectif national des dockers et dockers transit (CNDD) was abducted by men in military fatigues in Abidjan. He was found injured the following day in the Banco forest.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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