Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Senegal

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Senegal, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 19 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: 10,600,000
Capital: Dakar
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The government undermined the right to strike by requisitioning strikers. A teachers' union representative was arrested on union premises and in the cement industry two workers standing for union elections were sacked.

Trade union rights in law

The freedom of association and the right to strike are guaranteed in the Constitution. There are limitations, however.

Limitations of the freedom of association: A trade union cannot exist legally without the Ministry of the Interior's approval and the public authorities have broad powers to dissolve trade unions by administrative authority.

Minors over 16 years of age may join trade unions unless their membership is opposed by a parent. This does not conform to international labour standards.

Strike restrictions: Similarly, the right to strike is recognised but heavily restricted, notably by a provision in the 2001 Constitution, which stipulates that strike action must not infringe upon the freedom to work or jeopardise the enterprise. Private sector unions must give three days' notice, and civil service unions must give at least one month's notice. The authorities also have broad powers to requisition workers from private enterprises, public services and establishments to ensure: the safety of persons and goods; the maintenance of public order; the continuity of public services and the country's essential needs. This is a broad definition that is open to abuse. The law also states that workplaces, or their immediate surroundings, may not be occupied during a strike.

The right to collective bargaining is recognised.

Trade union rights in practice

Waiting for government approval to form a union: Some unions, notably the Syndicat du Personnel du Corps Diplomatique and the bookmakers' union LONASE, have reported long delays in seeking government approval for their registration.

Employers obstruction tactics: Since 2000, the Société National de Commercialisation des Oléagineux du Sénégal (SONACOS/SUNEOR) has refused to renew the mandate of the workers' delegates, as way of excluding the Syndicat Autonome des Travailleurs des Oléagineux du Sénégal. The same happens at AFRICAMER, SEMECOR, and AFRIC AZOTE in order to retain only those delegates who do not challenge the employers.

Majority of workers not covered by Labour Code: The majority of workers are excluded from the Labour Code because they are in the agricultural industry or the informal economy, where the Code does not apply.

Collective bargaining blocked: The government blocks negotiations with certain sectors, and it has unilaterally changed a number of provisions in the National Charter on Social Dialogue of 2002.

Requisitions limit the right to strike: Although the unions had organised a minimum service during the strikes in the health and education sector in 2006, in October the government requisitioned by decree all the clerks and secretaries of the striking public prosecutor department. This greatly exceeded the number of personnel required to ensure an essential service.

Printers hostile to unions: The printworkers' union, the Syndicat des Industries polygraphiques (Imprimeries), reported in 2006 that employers in the industry refused to organise elections for staff delegates. Workers' representatives face constant threats and some workers do not want to stand for election as delegates for fear of losing their jobs.

Violations in 2006

Background: Although Senegal is generally seen as a bastion of democracy in West Africa, the year 2006 saw a decline in freedoms, especially the freedom of expression, particularly in the lead up to the February 2007 presidential elections.

Two candidate workers' delegates sacked: Although the cement workers' union, the Syndicat national des travailleurs des industries du ciment (SYNTIC), was formally recognised as a trade union in August 2005, Ciment du Sahel completely overlooked the SYNTIC – the sole trade union present in the factory – in the election of workers' delegates in January 2006. Two days after SYNTIC submitted its list of candidates, two of them were dismissed. Its General Secretary had already been fired in 2005.

Striking rail workers dismissed: In July 2006, TRANSRAIL, the Franco-Canadian concession holder of the privatised railway, dismissed two activists from the Senegalese union FETRAIL and 18 from the Malian union SYTRAIL who were on strike. Their action was in protest at the non-respect of an earlier agreement regarding wages, and to demand the departure of the Director-General of TRANSRAIL.

Union representative arrested on union premises: On 2 August 2006, a dispute between the government and the teachers' unions culminated in the arrest of Mr. Farba Sy, a representative of the elementary teachers' union, the Syndicat National de l'Enseignement Elémentaire (SNEEL), an affiliate of the Confédération nationale des travailleurs du Sénégal (CNTS), on the premises of the single democratic teachers' union, the Syndicat unique et démocratique des Enseignants du Sénégal (SUDES), during an inter-union meeting.

Right to strike violated: In October 2006, all the members of the union SYTJUST (representing all workers in the justice sector) went on strike because the government has been refusing to negotiate their demands since 2005. The government requisitioned all the clerks and secretaries of the striking public prosecutor department by decree. This far exceeded the number of staff required to ensure an essential service.

Staff delegates beaten and imprisoned following strike: The CNTS reported that further to a protest by members of the national mineworkers' union, the Syndicat National des Travailleurs des Industries Extractives et de la Prospection Minière du Sénégal, the employer called in the police to remove all staff. All 15 workers' delegates were dismissed, and some were beaten and imprisoned.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld