Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2017, 11:43 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Djibouti

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 - Djibouti, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
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: 833,000
Capital: Djibouti
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

For two years now and since the coming into force of a Labour Code concocted by the authorities, the freedom of action of free trade unions has narrowed further and trade union rights are being flouted more than ever.

Trade union rights in law

The new Labour Code calls into question fundamental rights: The new Labour Code, which came into force in January 2006, contravenes the fundamental rights upheld by the ILO, including those on freedom of association, collective bargaining and organising. The social partners were never involved in the drafting work on the Code.

Government authorisation required: Under the new Code, setting up a trade union requires authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior, the Employment Ministry, the Labour Inspectorate, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General. Any change in the statutes or composition of the leadership of a union has to follow the same authorisation procedure. And should any of the ministries so require, the Attorney General can still refer the application to the civil court to seek the dissolution of the union.

Salary suspended for taking up union post: Article 41, paragraph 8, provides for the suspension of the employment contract and salary of any worker who takes up a union post.

Right to strike limited: While the right to strike is recognised, it is curtailed. The authorities have broad powers to requisition public servants who are on strike, and unions planning strike action must inform the Ministry of the Interior 48 hours in advance.

The Labour Code does not apply to workers in export processing zones.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The authoritarian tendencies of the government have increased. In addition to persistent attacks on the unions, the last publication of the opposition was prevented from coming out in May and the head of the country's Human Rights League was imprisoned for two months before being allowed to receive medical care abroad.

Criticism from the ILO: All of the ILO monitoring bodies have expressed concern at the serious assaults on the principles of freedom of association in Djibouti. Whether it's a case of speeding up an enquiry, providing explanations or confirming that it will amend articles in the Labour Code, the government's replies have never satisfied the ILO or, clearly, the Workers' Group. For instance, with regard to the nomination of the so-called "workers' delegates" at the International Labour Conference, the Credentials Committee regretted " ... the attitude of the Government, which clearly does not intend to address the problems that have repeatedly been brought to the Committee's attention, and that take place in a context of deteriorating violations of trade union rights in Djibouti".

Using the law against trade unionists: According to the new Labour Code, anyone having been convicted to a prison sentence of more than three months for a number of crimes such as fraud or breach of trust cannot become a union official. As the UDT points out, given Djibouti's record of violating the rule of law, notably sentencing people on false charges, this restriction can in practice become a means of restricting fundamental union rights.

Unrepresentative organisations: The government has been involved in the establishment of unrepresentative trade union organisations that have usurped the names, titles and roles of the existing union centres. For international meetings, the authorities have nominated workers' delegates that are in reality closely linked to it and are not representative.

Harassment: Trade unionists are subjected to constant harassment, through dismissals, downgrading and salary cuts. The government accuses union activists of being enemies of the state and does not hesitate to arrest and detain them.

Strikes: In practice strikes are brutally repressed.

Intimidation of a union leader: A mission by Education International (EI) that was to take place in May had to be cancelled as the authorities refused to grant visas. On 3 May, the General Secretary of the secondary teachers' union SYNESED (an affiliate of EI), who had signed the invitation letter required by the authorities for obtaining visas, was picked up by security police and taken to their office where he was interrogated for one hour. It is worth recalling that earlier, in 2006, representatives of international organisations, including the ILO, had been expelled from the country.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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