2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Eritrea

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Eritrea, 9 June 2007, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca3128.html [accessed 24 January 2019]
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: 4,400,000
Capital: Asmara
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138

Unions are permitted, but they have to operate in a climate of increasing repression. All unions, including the national union centre NCEW are closely monitored. The whereabouts of the three union leaders arrested and imprisoned in 2005 was still unknown.

Trade union rights in law

Unions permitted – with some restrictions: Employment law is covered by Proclamation 118, which gives workers the legal right to form unions. However, government policies restrict free associations. Unions are not allowed within the armed forces, the police force or other essential services, however civil servants not involved in state administration will be given the right to organise when the draft Civil Service Proclamation is passed. The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare must grant special approval for groups of 20 or more persons seeking to form a union, but the government generally does not oppose their formation.

Collective bargaining is allowed. According to Proclamation 118, a tripartite board composed of workers, employers, and Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare officials resolve differences. The complainant can pursue a case in court if it cannot be resolved by the tripartite board.

The law allows strikes.

There are no export processing zones.

Trade union rights in practice

Government monitoring: The national trade union centre is the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW), which is closely monitored by the government. Some trade unions, such as the Teachers Union, Women's Union, Youth Union, and Workers Union, come under close scrutiny from the government and the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice party. Free collective bargaining is thus rendered meaningless.

Violations in 2006

Background: There has been increasing repression in the country, as tensions with Ethiopia continue in spite of a peace accord reached in 2000 after a bloody war over a border issue which remains unresolved in practice. Thousands of government critics have been arrested, detained or imprisoned without trial.

Fate of arrested union leaders unknown: There was no news of the three trade union leaders arrested in 2005. Tewelde Ghebremedhin (Chair of the IUF-affiliated Food, Beverages, Hotels, Tourism, Agriculture and Tobacco Workers Federation), Minase Andezion (Secretary of the ITGLWF-affiliated Eritrean Textile, Leather and Shoe Workers' Federation) and Habtom Weldemicael (leader of the Red Sea Bottlers Coca-Cola Workers Union) were arrested in March and April of 2005 and held incommunicado. Their arrests were thought to be because of their trade union activities (which the government denies) at a time when the government was considering changing trade union regulations and structures.

During the year the then-ICFTU, the IUF and the ITGLWF repeatedly sought information from the government as to their whereabouts, and assurances as to their physical wellbeing, but to no avail. The three international organisations had also repeatedly urged the NCEW to seek information from the government, but at the year's end it was still not known what had become of the three detainees, although the NCEW claimed it had intervened with the authorities to seek their release and had been in contact with their relatives.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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