Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Benin

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 - Benin, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd889621c.html [accessed 20 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: 8,850,000
Capital: Porto Novo

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

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

There are serious restrictions on the right to strike and the authorities have frequently made inflammatory statements against the trade unions, heightening social tensions and prompting protest actions.

Background

Outgoing President Boni Yayi, won a second term in the first round of presidential elections in March, despite challenges from the opposition. In ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Benin took a big step forward towards abolishing the death penalty.

Trade union rights in law

Although basic trade union rights are guaranteed in the law, excessive restrictions are still in place. To obtain legal recognition, unions must deposit their statutes with the competent authorities, or face a fine or prosecution. Workers have the right to bargain collectively, with the exception of merchant shipping employees.

Although the right to strike is recognised in both the public and private sectors, it is marred with restrictions, including a requirement to announce the length of a strike in advance. The government also has the right to declare a strike illegal on specific grounds such as a threat to social peace and order, and can requisition civil servants in the event of a strike.

On 1st October a new law came into force extending the ban on the right to strike for military personnel and police officers to customs officers and water and forestry workers.

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

In practice

No consultation over legislative changes: A draft law restricting the right to strike is currently under consideration. The trade unions have roundly condemned the haste with which this initiative is being dealt with and the lack of consultation.

Violations

Anti-union pronouncements by the Head of State: Faced with social unrest and numerous strikes, the Head of State, Thomas Boni Yayi, has made many inflammatory statements. On 13 June, on the eve of a strike organised by the Coalition of Public Service Unions (Coalition des organisations syndicales de l'administration publique – COSYNAP), he warned that he aimed to "put an end to disorder" and demanded that ministers list the names of all civil servants who did not report for work. One month later, as stoppages continued in the civil service, the Council of Ministers spoke of "serious dysfunctionality" within the trade unions. It urged them to ensure better governance by electing new leaders, the underlying message being that most leaders were no longer representative of the workers. The Council also urged parliament to speed up their review of the law on strikes. In mid-September, President Yayi spoke of "anarchy in Benin's trade union movement". Then on 28 September, as customs officers prepared to strike in protest at a law which would deny them the right to do so, he made threatening remarks, warning he might requisition retired customs officers to replace them.

Police provocation two days in a row: On 29 September the Director General of Customs used force to change the locks on the offices of the striking customs officers to enable the requisitioned retired officers to work there. The strikers decided to suspend their action and returned to work, but were very critical of the use of force. The following day police officers surrounded the trade union headquarters as the national trade union centres gathered there to decide on what to do next in response to the threats to the right to strike.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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