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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Côte d'Ivoire

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 - Côte d'Ivoire, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 25 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: 19,600,000
Capital: Yamoussoukro
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The rising price of basic goods and the authorities' failure to implement labour agreements – some of them dating back six years – have led to mounting discontent among workers and their unions. There were many strikes and demonstrations which were harshly repressed, particularly in the north which is still under the de facto control of the "former" rebel forces.

Trade union rights in law

The Constitution of 23 July 2000 guarantees the right to form trade unions and the right to strike in both the public and private sectors.

Freedom of association: The labour laws give workers, the liberal professions and self-employed workers who do not employ staff, the right to form and join trade unions. Only military personnel and police officers are excluded from these provisions, which is not in contravention of international labour standards. Employers are prohibited from applying pressure either for or against a trade union. Only Côte d'Ivoire nationals, nationals of a country with which reciprocal trade union and worker protection agreements have been concluded, and foreigners who have been legal residents in the country for at least three years, may exercise administrative and managerial functions in a trade union.

Collective bargaining: All workers, with the exception of military personnel and police officers, have the right to collective bargaining. The ILO has noted that the Labour Code does not provide sufficient sanctions to deter employers taking measures against trade unionists for trade union activities.

Right to strike – restrictions: Strikes are prohibited until a complicated conciliation and mediation procedure has been exhausted and a notice period of six working days has elapsed. The President of the Republic may, if he considers that the strike could threaten public order or the general interest, submit the dispute to arbitration. This may be the case when "the strike affects an essential service whose interruption could endanger the lives, health or security of all or a part of the population ", and in an "acute national crisis". The Labour Code does not list the services considered to be essential.

In the public sector, the right to strike is also recognised, once again with the obligation to respect the six day notice period. Staggered work stoppages or rolling strikes are prohibited. A minimum service is required, in particular in public hospitals.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: At the beginning of April, demonstrations against the high cost of living left at least two dead and dozens more injured. The November elections, continually postponed since 2005, were cancelled yet again, officially for technical reasons, but the real reasons were the growing security problems, the interruption of the registration process for the electoral roll, and a country still divided in two, with the north under the de facto control of the former rebels.

Repression of a workers' march at the port of Abidjan: On 28 January a demonstration organised by the workers' collective in the Vridi port area was violently repressed by police. The collective, whose members include trade unions, organised the demonstration to draw the public authorities' attention to the injustice suffered by the victims of the Probo Koala scandal. The oil tanker had discharged tons of toxic waste in the port, provoking a public health disaster, killing dozens and poisoning thousands. The organisers had planned a peaceful march and had applied for permission from the authorities within the legal time limit, but it was violently dispersed by police. At least 20 demonstrators were injured. Four of the collective's leaders and about 50 workers were arrested, before being released a few hours later.

Energy workers sign agreement with employer: After three years of industrial dispute and anti-union harassment, the Ivorian Electricity Company (CIE), a subsidiary of the Bouygues group, agreed on 30 April to sign a framework agreement with the National Union of Energy Workers (SYNASEG). The agreement commits the employer to recognising trade union rights and promoting social dialogue.

Civil service strikes repressed in north: At the end of October six people were injured, including two seriously, and 44 arrested when Force nouvelles (the former rebels) soldiers crushed a civil servants' demonstration in the town of Korhogo. At the end of November, fresh strikes broke out in other towns in the north of the country. In Bouaké, dozens of teachers were briefly detained by soldiers who had come to remove the strikers. Most of the strikes were organised by the Movement of Redeployed Civil Servants of Ivory Coast (MOFORCI). The union was protesting at delays in paying installation allowances promised to civil servants redeployed in the northern areas of the country which are still under the de facto control of the former rebels.

Despair among striking local authority employees: The Union of Local Authority Employees of Ivory Coast (SYNAPECO-CI) and the National Ivory Coast Municipal Police Union (SYNAPOMU-CI) went on strike three times during the year to protest against their deplorable working conditions and the failure to respect the collective agreements signed in 2002. Many strikers were briefly arrested during the strikes. On 5 August in Port Bouët, Gogo Anselme and Traoré Adama, two members of the SYNAPECO-CI national executive bureau, and eight local authority police officers, were arrested as they were about to hold a meeting in the town hall to report on the progress of the strike. They were released a few hours later.

Teachers no better off: Throughout the year teachers' unions called for the application of the pay reviews promised them in the past. Social dialogue was weak, resulting in several "illegal" strikes.

Interference in doctor's unions' activities: On 12 December, Dr Atté Boka, General Secretary of the National Union of Senior Health Service Managers ("Syndicat national des cadres supérieurs de la santé de Côte d'Ivoire", SYNACASS-CI), was removed from his post without explanation. The decision came as doctors were awaiting a pay rise due at the beginning of 2009 and the settlement of several other demands. This was clearly another attempt at intimidation, say SYNACASS-CI. In 2007, SYNACASS-CI members carried out a lengthy strike to get improvements in their working conditions. The union was also placed under the control of a government administrator for a while following a complaint by a group of doctors opposed to a property transaction carried out by the union. The internal crisis led to divisions in the union, with the dissidents enjoying the support of the Ministry of the Interior.

Health sector unions are not the only ones to suffer interference by the authorities and political parties. In the education sector, the National Union of Secondary Education Teachers (SYNESCI) faced similar problems, when two organisations claimed to exist, under the same name. At the end of the year the two tendencies seemed to be on the path to reunification, however.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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