Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2018, 13:43 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Ethiopia

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 - Ethiopia, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 16 January 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: 83,000,000
Capital: Addis-Ababa

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

Dismissals: 1

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Members of the National Teachers Association (NTA) face harassment and surveillance, as their organisation continues to be denied recognition. The government still interferes in trade union affairs and unions have reported strong anti-union attitudes by Chinese employers.


The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) continued to crush any potential political opposition or dissent. There were mass arrests of ethnic Oromo in March, and a wider crackdown with arrests of journalists and opposition politicians from June to September 2011. In August, an Amnesty International delegation to Ethiopia was ordered to leave the country. Several journalists were arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2011, including two Swedish journalists arrested in July while covering the conflict in the Ogaden region. In December, the two were found guilty of supporting terrorism and sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Trade union rights in law

The Constitution recognises the right to form and join trade unions, but much of the labour legislation is based on the restrictive 2003 Labour Proclamation, which excludes many categories of workers primarily in the public sector. Furthermore, the law does not prevent an employer from creating or supporting a workers' organisation with a view to controlling it. Collective bargaining is limited, and all negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collective agreement must be finished within three months or the provisions cease to apply. In addition, civil servants are not allowed to bargain on wages or working conditions. Although workers have the right to strike, they must follow lengthy and complicated procedures which make legal strike action difficult. Trade unions can be dissolved if they carry out a strike in essential services, the list of which is extensive, or engage in political action.

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

In practice

Government interference: The government blatantly interferes in trade union affairs in all sectors, notably the banking and education sectors. Many trade union leaders are regularly intimidated and most are removed from their posts and/or forced to leave the country. The government closely monitors the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU).

Teachers denied the right to organise:

Teachers in public schools continue to be deprived of the right to form and join trade unions. The independent National Teachers' Association (NTA), an Education International (EI) affiliate, was formed in 2008 after the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the name, logo, all property and bank assets of the then Ethiopian Teacher's Association (ETA) be given to the government-recognised entity, thereby dismantling the once largely independent teacher association. The NTA was denied legal registration by the Ministry of Justice on the ground that a national teacher association already exists. The second attempt to register in February 2010 has consistently been discouraged verbally by officials of the newly created Charities and Societies Agency. However, no official notification from the Agency has been received by NTA to date. Given that it is not yet registered, NTA members do not have a guaranteed right to conduct collective bargaining.

Over the years, members of the independent teachers' association have faced harassment, dismissal, arrest, torture and even death. The Government of Ethiopia has not yet initiated steps to conduct a full and independent inquiry into allegations of trade unionists' arrests, their torture and mistreatment when in detention.

The ILO has urged the government to register NTA without delay.

Chinese employers anti-union: When Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), in partnership with Energi Industri of Norway, carried out a project with its affiliate Ethiopian Industrial Federation of Construction, Wood and Allied Sectors in 2009-2010 to tackle HIV/AIDS in the workplace, it encountered particular difficulties with Chinese owned companies which displayed an anti-union mentality and resistance to organising. In general, most Chinese employers do not allow workers to form a union, and in case they do manage to form one anyway, its leaders are often transferred or sacked, and its members intimidated and pressurised to leave the union.


Continued harassment of the National Teachers' Association: In additional information sent to the ILO in March 2011, Education International (EI) reported that members of the National Teachers' Association (NTA) were under the surveillance of government security agents. Harassment by security agents and government authorities is exacerbated partly at the request of the pro-government Ethiopian Teachers' Association leadership. Their purpose is to intimidate teachers to abandon the NTA and to force them to give up their longstanding demand for the formation of an independent union. Further pressure comes from landlords renting office space to NTA branches. The landlords ask for at least six months of rent to be paid in advance and increase the rent from time to time which the NTA cannot afford. In addition, some landlords have indirectly been forced by security agents to ask the NTA for a licence to show for what purpose the NTA uses the offices. The NTA is therefore often forced to move some of its offices or even close some of them down.

Attempts to establish a yellow union at Balcha Hospital, Addis Ababa, to the detriment of the existing union: At Balcha Hospital, in Addis Ababa, management has deliberately been weakening the existing trade union. Backed by officials from the local government's Labour and Social Affairs Department, it has been intimidating workers, as well as forcing them to join a puppet organisation.

Trade union leader at sugar factory illegally fired: At the Fincha Sugar Factory, in East Wellega in the Oromia Region, the chairperson of the factory workers' union, which represents around 7,000 workers, was fired without justification. As was stipulated by the collective agreement, the union leader was freed from his formal duty in order to be able to carry out his legitimate trade union work. There are strong concerns, however, that this was the exact reason why he was fired.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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