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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cameroon

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cameroon, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 15 December 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: 19,500,000
Capital: Yaoundé
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Excessive legal restrictions, widespread corruption and abuses of power by the authorities and employers have made it very difficult to exercise trade union rights. In January, Orange Telecom suspended trade union activists. In November, leaders of a public service trade union centre were arrested and charged.


The legal framework is not favourable to trade unions despite some constitutional guarantees. For example, a union cannot include workers from both the private and public sector, and workers who organise a union and carry out trade union activities without having a registration certificate are liable for prison sentences. In addition, despite promises of reform, public servants may not form trade unions unless they obtain prior approval from the Minister for Territorial Administration. As well, they may not affiliate internationally without prior authorisation. Although anti-union discrimination is prohibited in law and coupled with sanctions, reinstatement or compensation is not available for unfairly dismissed workers.

Finally, the right to strike is heavily restricted as arbitration is compulsory for all industrial disputes and workers who ignore the procedures can be dismissed or fined. Civil servants do not have the right to strike.


Background: The population waits in vain for social reforms promised for years by the authorities. Corruption stifles the economy. Human rights are largely ignored. The situation of the independent press has become more and more worrying, intimidation and violence against journalists increased in 2010. Several leaders of the Syndicat national des journalistes du Cameroun (SNJC) were victims of the government's determination to repress freedom of expression. The country celebrated 50 years of independence. Presidential elections are due to be held in 2011. Paul Biya, the current President has been in power since 1982.

Interference, manipulation and favouritism: In recent years, the government has relied on registration procedures, which are too fluid in law and in practice in order to prevent the registration of trade unions it deems too independent and favours organisations it considers easier to control. In terms of national social dialogue, the government accorded equal status to the six national trade union centres even though during the last social elections in 2007 (restricted to the private sector even though the law also allows this in the public sector), only two of these centres obtained more than 5% of the votes.

According to a 2010 ILO report, the antidemocratic nature of the government has rubbed off on numerous so-called trade union organisations, utterly lacking in ethics with corrupt management and supported by the employers.

Trade unionists at Orange Telecom sanctioned: On 12 and 13 January, Orange's Cameroon management suspended five workers in retaliation for a strike. The Syndicat national de la communication (SYNACOM) began strike action in December 2009 to protest about management's slowness to conclude negotiations on a collective agreement. The dispute was resolved a few weeks later and the workers were reinstated, following support in particular from the Internationale des Services (UNI) and its affiliates under the global agreement negotiated with France Telecom.

Seven leaders of the Centrale syndicale du secteur public arrested and charged: On 11 November, seven leaders of the Central syndicale du secteur public (CSP) including the President, Jean-Marc Bikoko, were arrested during a peaceful sit-in in Yaoundé. They intended to present the Prime Minister with a series of demands to improve working and living conditions. The gathering in front of the Primature had been banned by the municipal authorities because the request had not been made within the legal timeframe and because "public demonstrations with a vindictive nature and/or protests are and remain forbidden by law in the Mfoundi region". The seven trade unionists were freed two days later after being charged with demonstrating illegally and disturbing public order.

Since it was formed in 2004, the authorities have also been hostile to the CSP, the main public service workers national federation. The May Day celebrations that the CSP regularly organises outside the official commemoration are suppressed and their leaders are often victims of intimidation.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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