Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritania

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritania, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 24 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: 3,300,000
Capital: Nouakchott
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unions who did not declare their allegiance to the post-coup government faced discrimination. By the end of the year there was still no social dialogue. Trade unions face serious obstacles due to overall restrictive labour laws.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association is strictly regulated despite some initial guarantees. Workers are free to form and join trade unions by virtue of the 2004 Labour Code. However, prior authorisation from the government is required to register a union. Only workers' representatives within companies are protected against anti-union discrimination, and reinstatement for arbitrary dismissals is not available.

Collective bargaining is severely circumscribed, since the Ministry for the Civil Service and Labour decides whether or not an organisation may engage in negotiations, and can even participate in the preparation of collective agreements. The head of government also decides how collective bargaining is organised at the national level.

Furthermore, although the right to strike is recognised, cumbersome procedures must be exhausted before a legal strike can be called. Civil service unions must give one month's notice prior to a strike, and all strikes can be declared illegal by the public authorities, without the possibility of appeal. The list of "essential services" is also bloated.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: The constitutional crisis ended in July with the election of Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, the leader of the 2008 military coup. The former general "legalised" his authority in the interior of the country through a series of popular economic measures (across the board price reductions) and with the western world by promising to address security issues (combating terrorism and cross-border trafficking).

Social dialogue at a standstill: Social dialogue at the national level came to a standstill after the 2008 coup d'Etat. On 27 December the three principal national centres called for the resumption of negotiations between the social partners, deploring the deterioration in the living conditions of workers and their families. The trend of recent years continued: Employers are very reticent to deal with trade unions. In general negotiations only take place if there is a dispute. In many enterprises, freedom of association is systematically undermined, usually through interference by the employers. This is frequently the case in the private sector where trade union delegates are vulnerable, all the more so given the increasing tendency to sub-contract.

Ineffective labour inspection: The enforcement of rights is complicated by the fact that labour inspectors have few means at their disposal and corruption is rife. Some have to cover regions that extend over 6,000 square kilometres, without a telephone or car. Even when a dispute breaks out, labour inspections are limited to voluntary conciliation. When a union takes the matter to a higher level, the legal environment is such that court rulings are often contradictory and sometimes completely ignored by companies. The procedures for settling disputes have also become increasingly lengthy and complex. The Labour Code allows 30 days for conciliation, 120 days for mediation and 90 days for arbitration. Thus, in certain cases it will take seven or eight months to complete the procedure for settling a dispute.

May Day celebrations under tight surveillance: The government encouraged a dissident wing of the Mauritanian Workers' Union (UTM), one of the three organisations affiliated to the ITUC. At the end of April, the national television channel, controlled by the junta, broadcast a programme on the labour world in which some UMT members who had been won over by the junta spoke. The independent national trade union centres had agreed to take part in the programme on the condition that it would be broadcast live to avoid any censorship, but that was refused. The UTM criticised the participation of the dissident faction in the official May Day celebrations, which were also boycotted by the General Workers Confederation of Mauritania (CGTM) and the Free Workers' Confederation of Mauritania (CLTM), the other two national centres affiliated to the ITUC and in favour, like the UTM, of a return to democracy. Some workers were even forced by their employers (some public enterprises) to take part in the official celebrations, while the loyalist trade unions, meeting together as the Democratic Trade Union Centres Coordination (CCSD) marched under tight military surveillance in different parts of the capital.

Dismissed for trade union membership: In August the company MPSS, a labour management company for the Portugues Do Amega road transport group, dismissed 10 workers. According to the Free Workers' Confederation of Mauritania (CLTM) it was in retaliation for their trade union membership.

Journalists' rally banned: On 28 December the police dispersed a rally by the Mauritanian Union of Journalists (SFM) outside the Palace of Justice. The participants were protesting at the continued detention of the journalist Hanefi Ould Dehah. The author of the Taqadoumy blog had served a six-month prison sentence for "inciting rebellion" and "an affront to moral standards". In principle he had been due to be released in December.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld