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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritania, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca7d23.html [accessed 26 July 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: 3,100,000
Capital: Nouakchott
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Several employers arbitrarily dismissed workers and their representatives as a means of blocking their demands.

Trade union rights in law

Restrictions on freedom of association: The current Labour Code was introduced by Act 2004/017 of 6 July 2004. All workers, except members of the military and police, and the judiciary, are free to form and join trade unions. However, Articles 275 and 276 of the Labour Code constitute a breach of freedom of association and the protection of union rights, as they give the government the power to decide whether or not to recognise a trade union, while the Office of the Public Prosecutor has to authorise all trade unions. Unions have no legal status until they receive that approval.

Non-Mauritanian nationals do not have the right to become trade union officials unless, as the Labour Code requires, they have worked in Mauritania and in the profession represented by the trade union, for a period of at least five years.

Protection of trade union leaders is not explicitly provided for in the Labour Code, although it is conferred on workers' delegates within companies. Labour courts are not allowed to overturn decisions and reinstate workers who have been arbitrarily dismissed. This provision will therefore benefit the employers.

Obstacles to the right to strike: The right to strike is recognised. Civil service unions have to give one month's notice before holding a strike. In the private sector they must provide official notification that conciliation procedures have broken down.

Executive and managerial staff are not allowed to strike.

The Labour Code also restricts strikes in sectors that are not covered by the ILO definition of "essential services".

The public authorities have the right to judge the legality or otherwise of a strike, whilst the unions have no right of appeal against that decision.

Collective bargaining: The right to collective bargaining is recognised.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: In March, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi became the first democratically elected President since the country's independence in 1960. Under pressure from the European Union, the authorities arrested and then expelled thousands of migrants apparently intending to transit Mauritania on their way to the Canary Islands and Europe.

Prior authorisation rarely granted: Unions have reported that authorisation for a trade union to exist and operate is rarely granted. Applications are consistently blocked at the registry of the Public Prosecutor. Numerous employers refuse to create workers' representation bodies.

Pressures by private employers: The unions have also reported that trade union organisations are not free to carry out their activities normally, as they regularly come up against obstacles and pressure from the government. Unionised workers are subjected daily to all kinds of pressure and discriminatory measures, such as arbitrary dismissals, in particular for exercising the right to strike. Workers are occasionally imprisoned, tortured and then dismissed, purely on the grounds of employers' complaints of supposed wrongdoing at the workplace.

Collective bargaining rights ignored: According to the unions, there is virtually no social dialogue, and employers are very reluctant to deal with them. Social dialogue generally only takes place when workers take industrial action. In many companies, freedom of association is constantly short-circuited because employers interfere in union elections. This occurs frequently in the private sector where union delegates are very vulnerable.

Ineffective labour inspection: The enforcement of rights is complicated by the fact that labour inspectors have few means at their disposal and corruption is rife. Some have to cover regions that extend over 6,000 square kilometres, without a telephone or car. Even when a dispute breaks out, labour inspections are limited to voluntary conciliation. When a union takes the matter to a higher level, the legal environment is such that court rulings are often contradictory and sometimes completely ignored by companies. Also, the procedures for settling disputes have become increasingly lengthy and complex. The Labour Code allows 30 days for conciliation, 120 days for mediation and 90 days for arbitration. Thus, in certain cases it will take seven or eight months to complete the procedure for settling a conflict.

Sacking of a prospective delegate shortly before a union election: The company SMBTD/Asprescoge, which manages the workforce for the Australian-owned MCM, sacked one of the candidates on the list of the Confédération générale des travailleurs de Mauritanie (CGTM) in the union elections on 5 May. A few days later, the court of Nouakchott annulled the election results. More than 900 workers are employed in this copper mine.

Sacking of a union delegate at the port of Nouadhibou: On 24 September, Cheikh Mokhtar Fall, a staff delegate and member of the CGTM, was dismissed by the management of the port of Nouadhibou. Five days earlier, a team of dockers had refused to do any illegal overtime. The employer reacted by demanding an explanation from the union delegate, dismissing him and then sending a letter to the Labour Inspectorate requesting permission for the dismissal, which was granted.

Refusal to negotiate and mass dismissal in a Japanese construction company: At the end of 2007, the Syndicat national de l'infrastructure (SNI), a CGTM affiliate, organised actions to protest against the practices of Kitano Construction Corp., a Japanese construction company, which had systematically refused to negotiate with the workers' representatives and carried out mass redundancies when the slightest demand was issued. The management reacted to the protest measures by sacking 110 workers.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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