Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Eritrea

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 - Eritrea, 6 June 2012, 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: 5,254,000
Capital: Asmara

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))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


In spite of what is enshrined in the labour law, there is no freedom of association and no free collective bargaining in this totalitarian state. National service is used as a means of subjecting citizens to forced labour.


Eritrea marked 20 years of independence in 2011, but the totalitarian regime remained as repressive as ever. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported in early 2011 that 220,000 Eritreans, about 5% of the population, had fled. Freedom of expression is still firmly suppressed and four more journalists were imprisoned in 2011. In July, a UN report accused Eritrea of being behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia in January.

Trade union rights in law

Labour law is governed by Labour Proclamation No 118, which gives workers the right to form unions. Unions are not allowed in the armed forces and the police. In addition, civil servants not involved in state administration do not have the right to organise until the draft Civil Service Proclamation is passed. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare must grant special approval for groups of 20 or more workers seeking to form a union.

Collective bargaining and strikes are allowed and industrial disputes are resolved by a tripartite board composed of workers, employers and Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare officials.

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

In practice

No freedom of association, no collective bargaining: No political or civic organizations are permitted except those controlled by President Isaias's People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). There is no freedom of association: all unions – including the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) and its affiliates – are kept under close scrutiny by the totalitarian government. Non-governmental public gatherings of over seven persons are prohibited. In practice, there is no free collective bargaining.

Forced labour: By law, all able-bodied adult Eritreans must perform 18 months of national service. In practice, national service is routinely prolonged indefinitely, extending for much of a citizen's working life. Pay is barely sufficient for survival. Recruits are used as cheap labor for civil service jobs, development projects, the ruling party's commercial and agricultural enterprises and projects that personally benefit civilian and military leaders. Another use for these workers is in the gold mines, often run by western companies who sub-contract much of the work – construction, food products, transportation, banking, even some drilling – to local companies, which inevitably means government-owned companies. Female recruits have reported sexual abuse by higher-ranking officers.


No entry for this country for this year

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