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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Madagascar

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Madagascar, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 18 October 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: 19,600,000
Capital: Antananarivo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 111 – 138 – 182

Despite opposition from the unions, the new Constitution adopted in April 2007 includes an article that strengthens the government's ability to restrict the right to strike. On such important matters as mining projects and the development of export processing zones, the government has scandalously avoided any dialogue with the unions.

Trade union rights in law

Restrictions for public servants and seafarers: The Constitution guarantees both public and private sector workers the right to join and form trade unions. However, according to the current Labour Code, the constitution, organisation and operation of trade unions is determined by decree. Also, the right to join or form unions is not extended to workers in so-called "essential services". Radio and television broadcasting, and banking are included in this classification, exceeding the limits set by the ILO's accepted definition. The Labour Code provides for the right to collective bargaining.

The Labour Code does not cover seafarers. Under the Maritime Code, they do have the right to make collective agreements, but their right to organise is not specifically recognised in law.

New restriction on the right to strike enshrined in the Constitution: Article 33 of the new Constitution adopted in April 2007 stipulates that "the right to strike is recognised without prejudice to the principle of continuity of public services or to the security and essential needs of the Nation". That new provision is much too broad, since it covers all state employees and does not explicitly exclude any private sector employees.

Interference by the authorities and use of arbitration procedures: The right to strike is recognised, but workers first have to exhaust the conciliation, mediation and arbitration procedures decided by the authorities. The government has the power to require public employees to work to end or avert a strike in its broad definition of "essential services".

The Labour Code prohibits anti-union discrimination. Labour legislation applies fully in the export processing zones (EPZs).

Two proposed laws on EPZs drafted behind closed doors: In a joint declaration issued in July, the main trade union organisations deplored the lack of transparency and failure to consult the social partners on two draft laws concerning investment, companies and EPZs. They had discovered several provisions in these texts that were not in compliance with fundamental labour standards. They drew attention to the dangers of "multi-speed legislation" and continued "social deregulation". Nevertheless, within a project entitled "improving the productivity of companies in EPZs", which started in 2005 with ILO support, a trade union platform representing the five most representative unions in the country began a constructive dialogue with a group of employers working in EPZs that should result in a collective agreement covering the EPZs.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: In early 2007, Madagascar was hit by one of the worst series of cyclones in recent years. Much of the harvest was destroyed. The revised Constitution endorsed through a referendum in April, and the crushing victory of his party in the early elections in September, strengthened the powers of President Marc Ravalomanana.

Trade union rights widely flouted: The prevalence of subsistence farming and work in the informal economy, coupled with the comparative indifference of the government and the contempt of employers for trade union activities mean that labour legislation is only applied to a small minority of workers. Workers are generally very vulnerable to anti-union discrimination.

Lack of social dialogue on mining projects: FISEMA criticised the lack of transparency in the government's reaching of agreements with Rio Tinto. The social partners were never consulted about these projects. In view of the huge economic stakes involved, FISEMA considered this particular lack of consultation even more serious than the government's handling of the draft laws covering EPZs.

Numerous violations in the EPZs: In practice, trade union rights are flouted every day in EPZs due to a lack of political will and resources. Workers have great problems forming trade unions or engaging in collective bargaining. In factories where a union has managed to obtain recognition it is very difficult to hold union meetings, or they are categorically banned, and the unions complain about a lack of goodwill from employers who prevent any real dialogue between the social partners. Just one company, out of the total of 62 in the EPZs, is applying a collective agreement. The unions report the persistence of abuses such as compulsory overtime, imposed night work for women and sexual harassment.

Government interference in trade union affairs: A government decree, issued in 2000, requires trade unions to provide a list of their members, a copy of their by-laws and the names of their serving officers. The government claimed this was merely to ensure that trade unions were representative. As the ILO pointed out, a record of membership dues should be sufficient for this purpose, as a list of names could make members more vulnerable to anti-union discrimination.

The country's trade unions also allege that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Law interferes in the elections of worker representatives to various tripartite bodies. It organises missions involving workers' delegates, without the knowledge of their confederations – for the purpose of appointing delegates to regional tripartite bodies – and calls for candidates, other than those already put forward by the confederations for membership, for these bodies.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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