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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Rwanda

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 - Rwanda, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 19 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: 9,700,000
Capital: Kigali
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

No protest actions were carried out in 2007 at a union's bidding. That is mainly due to legislation that severely restricts the right to strike and to the risk of severe punishment for "disturbing public order".

Trade union rights in law

Workers have the right to form trade unions. Union membership is voluntary and open to all salaried workers, including public sector employees. However, there are no provisions guaranteeing this right for civil servants. Under the 2002 Labour Code, drawn up with technical support from the ILO, agricultural workers now have the right to organise. This Code also allows foreign workers to be elected to trade union office after they have lived in the country for at least five years, provided non-nationals do not exceed one third of the union's officers.

Unions must register with the Ministry of Justice for official recognition, but this is just a formality.

The right to collective bargaining is recognised. A National Labour Council (Conseil National du Travail) was established by presidential decree on 2 November 2005.

Civil servants: The 2002 Labour Code specifically excludes civil servants from organising. However, Act 22 of 2002, on the general conditions of service for civil servants, does not contain any specific provisions in this regard, hence the legal situation is unclear.

Right to strike: The Labour Code restricts the right to strike. Authorisation for strikes is subject to the compulsory intervention of a Mediation Committee, but there are still no implementing provisions to establish that committee. Hence since 2002, a legal vacuum has prevented the real exercise of this right.

The list of so-called "essential services", in which strikes are not allowed, is excessively long. The Rwandan government has promised to amend its Code to take into account criticisms regarding the organising rights of civil servants and the right to strike in essential services.

Exercising the right to strike is sometimes confused with "disturbing public order", an offence that is severely punished by law and seriously impedes unions' ability to exercise this right.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Rwanda's trade union rights record has been poor. The authorities have, in the past, interfered in trade union affairs and employers have shown hostility to unions, with total impunity. But the unions have reported some significant improvements. In March, the government allowed the first real trade union elections to be held. On the other hand, the National Labour Council that was set up recently is still not operational and there are still no labour courts. More positively, some new chambers, specialised in social issues, and consisting of a judge and two "assessors", one of whom should come from a union organisation, were created and began their work in early 2005.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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