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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of

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 - Congo, Democratic Republic of, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8895828.html [accessed 21 April 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: 66,000,000
Capital: Kinshasa

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

Threats: 1
Injuries: 2
Arrests: 5
Imprisonments: 3

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

The proliferation of fictitious or corrupt trade unions, promoted by the authorities, placed the trade union movement in an extremely weak position. The government did not respond to the complaints filed with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association by various union centres. Trade unionists were threatened and arrested. Others who had been unfairly dismissed prior to 2011 were still waiting in vain to be reinstated.

Background

The presidential and legislative elections of November were plagued by irregularities and violent confrontation. Joseph Kabila's re-election as president was challenged by his opponent Etienne Tshisekedi, who contested the results and proclaimed himself the winner of the poll. The security forces reportedly killed at least 24 people during the post-election clashes. The country is blighted by endless conflicts, ethnic rivalries, shifting alliances, geopolitical and economic stakes, and the misuse of its vast natural resource wealth. International organisations estimate that over 1,000 people are killed every day by poverty or violence. DR Congo occupied last place in the UNDP's Human Development Index for 2011.

Trade union rights in law

The 2006 Constitution guarantees the right to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, residency requirements of 20 years effectively bars foreign workers access to trade union office. In the private sector unions negotiate with the government and with employers in the National Employment Council, but in the public sector the government sets wages by decree. Staff of decentralised entities (towns, territories and sectors) do not enjoy the right to bargain collectively.

Although the right to strike is recognised, unions must obtain prior consent and adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures. Workers are not allowed to occupy the workplace during a strike, and an infraction of the rules on strikes may lead to incarceration of up to six months. Employers are nevertheless prohibited by law from retaliating against strikers.

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

In practice

Authorities encourage catastrophic proliferation of trade unions: By encouraging the formation of hundreds of unions over a number of years, the authorities have considerably and purposely weakened the trade union movement. There are reported to be around 500 officially recognised trade unions in DR Congo, a situation that has been denounced by the most representative organisations and which they describe as probably the worst case of trade union proliferation in Africa. The authorities have persistently followed the principle of "divide and rule", under the cover of promoting political pluralism. The creation of yellow and empty-shell unions has been encouraged by employers and the state. An ILO report published in 2010 confirmed these chaotic developments, deemed catastrophic for the trade union movement. It is a trend that has been driven by self interest, political ambition or misinformation about the real values and objectives of trade union pluralism. In most cases, the unions that have emerged are characterised by all-pervading corruption, and their existence has contributed the widespread violation of workers' rights.

Unfairly dismissed trade unionists awaiting reinstatement: Many trade unionists unfairly dismissed over recent years are still waiting for justice. In its November report, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association examined three complaints filed by different union organisations regarding the discrimination, harassment and dismissal of trade unionists. The Committee deplored the government's failure to respond to the allegations made in any of the cases presented. The most recent complaint denounced the mass dismissal of Finance Ministry employees involved in strike action, including around 30 union representatives (see previous Survey).

Violations

Trade unionists intimidated, arrested and assaulted: The African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO) denounced several trade union rights violations in the capital. In February, Pierre Liandja, a trade unionist at the Department of Administrative and Property Revenues (DGRAD), received death threats by SMS. Another trade unionist, Tshétshé Ingulu Ngangeli, was arrested and imprisoned. They had denounced the mismanagement at the fiscal department.

Police stabbed two trade unionists, Mr Wobo and Mr Mandjandja, during a strike, in front of the administrative building of the transport and ports trading company, SCTP, at around 9.30 a.m. on 9 March. On 7 April, four trade unionists from the SCTP, Agbayo Vital, Mukulungu Puis, Lino Metikwiza and Yilu Yilu, were arrested at the employer's request, despite the fact that negotiations were underway with the labour inspector. Lino Metikwiza and Yilu Yilu were imprisoned. The workers were demanding the payment of wage arrears and a review of their transport allowances.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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