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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Senegal

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 - Senegal, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 18 November 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: 12,500,000
Capital: Dakar

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

Injuries: 3
Arrests: 1
Dismissals: 10

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Two workers' protests were violently suppressed and an inter-union march was banned. Union representation elections were finally able to go ahead and are expected to contribute to strengthening the trade union movement, which has been weakened over recent years by the proliferation of organisations with little credibility.


Political tensions were heightened in the run up to the presidential elections, in a country often cited as an example of stability and democracy. Constitutional manoeuvres by 85-year-old President Wade to allow him to stand for a third term in office raised controversy.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association and the right to strike are guaranteed in the Constitution but are marred by a number of restrictions. The Ministry of Interior has discretionary powers to grant or refuse registration of a union, and the registration procedure is often very long. Collective agreements are signed between workers and employers under state arbitration.

The right to strike is heavily restricted, most notably due to a provision in the 2001 Constitution which stipulates that strike action must not infringe upon the freedom to work or jeopardise the enterprise. The authorities also have broad powers to requisition workers to replace those on strike.

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

In practice

Union representation elections finally held: Senegal's first union representation elections were held on 20 April with the participation of 18 trade union centres. President Wade declared himself in favour of strong unions, calling on the least representative organisations to join the most powerful ones in the interests of social dialogue. Unionists considered the holding of these elections to be crucial, as the fragmentation of the trade union movement on account of personal or political interests has led to many trade union rights violations. The trade union centres had moved to have the elections adjourned on several occasions, considering there to be insufficient guarantees to ensure their fairness.


Inter-union march against high cost of living banned: The authorities banned a nationwide trade union march against the high cost of living scheduled for 28 January, considering it to be "groundless" following the government's announcement on the reduction in the price of several basic foodstuffs. The Senegalese Human Rights League (LSDH), together with several trade union centres, condemned the "systematic banning of peaceful demonstrations planned by various segments of society, the latest being the march organised by the inter-union body, the Coordination des centrales syndicales". The trade union movement was calling throughout 2011 for the implementation of the agreement concluded in August 2009 on a rise in pay and a reduction in VAT on "sensitive" products and services.

Postal union meeting violently dispersed: On 26 May, a general meeting of the post and telecommunications union Syndicat national des travailleurs/euses des postes et des télécommunications (SNTPTS) was violently dispersed by police and security officers. Ordered to clear the public space, workers meeting in front of the directorate general in Dakar at first refused and then, on being charged at by the police, rushed inside the building where tear gas was fired at them. The SNTPTS and the directorate general of postal services have been in dispute since 2010. The union denounced mismanagement and blatant acts of interference by the current director.

Unfair dismissals and arrest at Ciments du Sahel: On 19 September, a sit-in held by workers at the Ciments du Sahel cement plant was violently dispersed by security forces in Kirene. Tear gas was fired at the workers who were refusing to move on. Three strikers were injured. The sit-in had been organised in support of a worker who had been unfairly dismissed and arrested. The management was accusing him of being the author of a "defamatory" leaflet. The Confédération nationale des travailleurs du Sénégal (CNTS) demanded that the employer withdraw the charges, reinstate the worker and immediately engage in serious negotiations with the employees' representatives. The worker was released at the end of September. He was not reinstated. Nine other employees were also fired for taking part in protest action. In addition, the contracts of workers who had joined the strike were not renewed. Ciments du Sahel employs 800 people and opposes any form of union organising at the cement plant.

Widespread violations during representation and workplace representative elections: The Confédération nationale des travailleurs du Sénégal (CNTS) reported attacks on trade union rights during the union representation elections. At the Soleil Grafisol printing firm, for example, workers were not able to vote because the management had not submitted the lists to the electoral commission. The workplace representatives' elections, held every three years, also gave rise to blatant violations at several companies, including at security firm Vigassistance, where the management tried to encourage the creation of another list in order to obstruct the union with majority support, the CNTS. On seeing, however, that it was not able to secure enough votes, the management asked the prefect to ban the elections, which he did.

Union-busting in gold mining sector: Since the launch of Sabadola Gold Operations in 2009, the Australian company has been pursuing a range of tactics and acts of intimidation to discourage workers from unionising. These include the employer's systematic refusal to deduct workers' union dues from their pay, despite the submission of subscription forms signed by the workers to confirm their union membership.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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