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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Burkina Faso

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 - Burkina Faso, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 28 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: 15,200,000
Capital: Ouagadougou
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The various protests and marches held in February against high living costs and soaring food prices led to a toughening of the authorities' response to strikes and workers' demonstrations. The Labour Code was amended to broaden the right to strike.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The Constitution of Burkina Faso guarantees freedom of association for all persons. The Labour Code, amended in 2008, recognises the right of workers to form and join trade unions, with the exception of members of the army, police and other security personnel. Workers aged under 16, who are of legal age to work, require their parents' or guardians' consent to be able to join a union.

Collective bargaining: Unions have the right to engage in collective bargaining on wages and other working conditions.

Right to strike: The right to strike is recognised by law. The former Labour Code contained a very restrictive definition of the right to strike, considering any work stoppage that did not correspond to a work grievance to be illegal. Following ILO recommendations, the new Labour Code broadens this definition and establishes that workers can take strike action not only in support of demands directly related to their place of work but also to ensure the defence of workers' material or moral interests.

The government still has the right to requisition private and public sector workers who hold posts deemed essential to ensuring the security of people and property, to maintaining public order or meeting the essential needs of the community. The new Code, however, stipulates that requisitioning shall be limited to ensuring a minimum service. It remains to be seen whether the regulations corresponding to this provision will comply with the ILO principles regarding minimum services. The Code forbids the occupation of workplaces or their immediate surroundings, on pain of penal sanctions. According to the ILO, this prohibition should be limited to non-peaceful actions.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The social climate in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries on the planet, deteriorated even further. In February, food protests broke out in major urban centres, leading to the arrest of 184 demonstrators, young people in the main. Around fifty of them were promptly condemned to prison sentences ranging from three months to three years. On the positive side, in March, the main trade unions and civil society organisations formed a national coalition to fight against high living costs.

Member of SYNTER arrested: On 21 February, at approximately half past one in the morning, the police burst into the home of Sanou Seydou, a member of the teachers' and researchers' trade union SYNTER (Syndicat des travailleurs de l'éducation et de la recherche), and took him to the police station, where he was held without charge for over ten hours.

Violations of the right to strike and to demonstrate: During May Day celebrations in Boganté, assistant public prosecutor Bruno Zabsonre, deliberately aimed his car at a crowd of demonstrators. In Gaoua, the town's prefect banned the protests called for mid-May by the National Coalition against High Living Costs. In Ouagadougou, a number of employers threatened to take reprisals against their employees if they went on strike. Employees were requisitioned in several sectors to undermine the strike. This was the case, for example, at the national water and sewerage office, ONEA, where the requisitions affected almost 40% of the staff.

Arbitrary sanctions taken in 2007 maintained: Public servants affiliated to the national Treasury employees' union, Syndicat des agents du Trésor du Burkina (SATB), and the union of Foreign Affairs Ministry employees, Syndicat autonome des agents du ministère des Affaires étrangères (SAMAE), who were transferred for having taken part in protests in May 2007, have still not been reinstated in their former posts. Several rulings in favour of unfairly dismissed workers have hitherto not been implemented.

Union leader interrogated: On 15 December, Tolé Sagnon, General Secretary of the national union confederation, Confédération générale des travailleurs du Burkina (CGT-B), was called in for questioning by the national gendarmerie along with three leaders from the movement against impunity (Collectif contre l'impunité). The interrogation took place two days after a march commemorating the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Norbert Zongo, the former Director of the weekly newspaper, L'Indépendant. The four activists were later released without charge.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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