Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Burundi

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 - Burundi, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 20 February 2018]
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: 8,300,000
Capital: Bujumbura

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

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: 4

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


The two main union confederations denounced government interference in trade union affairs. Two new teaching unions were set up by the ruling party to sow division in the sector. Three teaching union representatives were the targets of death threats. Trade unionists from the justice and media sectors were intimidated or penalised for taking strike action.


A surge in violence reawakened the spectre of the civil war. In September, at least 39 people were massacred in Gatumba, near Bujumbura. The authorities imposed censorship on the media, banning any reports, comments or analysis on the bloodbath to avoid "spreading confusion". In November, a coalition bringing together around a hundred NGOs and trade unions launched a campaign against the high cost of living, recalling that the price of water had risen by 200% in a year and that of several basic foodstuffs such as cassava flour and rice had risen by 60%. Nearly 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. Burundi is considered to be one of the five most corrupt countries in the world.

Trade union rights in law

Despite basic trade union rights being recognised in the Constitution and the Labour Code, numerous excessive restrictions apply. All unions must have at least 50 members, and all union representatives must have worked in the sector for at least one year. Freedom of association in the public sector is regulated by Law No. 1/015 of 29 November 2002, which stipulates that for civil servants' unions to be recognised, they must be registered with the Civil Service Ministry, which is their employer.

Although the right to collective bargaining is guaranteed in the Labour Code, bargaining on wages is not possible in the public sector as the government sets wages.

Though the Constitution recognises the right to strike, workers can only go on strike when, and if, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security says it is satisfied that they have exhausted all other means of dispute resolution. This effectively gives the Ministry the power to veto all strikes. Finally, in the public sector, solidarity strikes are prohibited, and the government can requisition striking workers.

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

In practice

No entry for this country for this year


Three trade union representatives on death threat list: In April, leaflets were being distributed containing a list of death threat targets. The list, identifying members of the opposition and civil society, named three education union representatives, Eulalie Nibizi, Chantal Nahishubije and Philibert Ngezahayo.

Public meeting on high cost of living prohibited: On 1 September, the police, acting on orders from the Bujumbura city council, stopped the holding of a public meeting organised by eight civil society organisations and the union confederations COSYBU and CSB on the huge hike in water and electricity prices. The organisations report that the police did not have any kind of warrant to stop them from holding the meeting, despite the authorities having been notified within the required timeframe.

Threats and reprisals following strike at national radio and television: The director of RNTB, Burundi's national radio and television broadcaster, launched a brutal anti-union campaign following strike action held from 3 to 8 November. The national radio and television workers' union Syndicat des travailleurs de la radio télévision nationale (SYRT) sent a letter to the President of the Republic denouncing the campaign of intimidation and repression being waged by the director, who was transferring workers and dismissing department heads. The director moreover admitted to having sent a letter to the National Intelligence Service accusing the strikers of trying to subvert and destabilise institutions.

Striking magistrates threatened with reprisals: On 29 November, magistrates ended the strike launched in mid October without having managed to secure their demands for more independence and better working conditions. The Justice Minister had threatened to take punitive measures against magistrates refusing to return to work. The magistrates' union Syndicat des magistrats du Burundi (SYMABU) denounced these threats, as well as cuts in strikers' pay, even for periods worked. This was the third magistrates' strike since the start of 2011.

Political intimidation and creation of yellow unions in health and education sectors:

The two main trade union centres, the Confederation des syndicats du Burundi (COSYBU) and Confédération syndicale du Burundi (CSB), have for many years been denouncing the constant government interference in trade union affairs. Trade unions with close ties to the ruling party have been set up in the health and education sectors. Workers are repeatedly harassed by their employers to join the ruling party and these new organisations that have been created and receive funding to weaken the trade union movement.

In February, when four teaching unions, CONAPES, SLEB, STEB and SYNAPEP, called on their members to take part in a strike, the two new unions, SEEPBU and SIPESBU, formed in 2010, called on their members to boycott it. The four legitimate unions came out in opposition to a programme to redeploy teachers around the country, which they believe is above all designed to destabilise the unions and disperse their members.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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