The labor code gives workers the right to form and join trade unions, and on paper they enjoy significant legal protections. In recent years, however, workers have been in the vanguard of the movement for democratic political reform. As a result they have been the target of repressive acts by successive military-dominated governments.
The two main trade union entities are the National Confederation of Guinean Workers and the Union of Guinean Workers. They comprise approximately 80 percent of the public- and private-sector workforce. Smaller unions include the National Organization of Free Trade Unions and the Democratic Union of Guinean Workers. These groups cooperate in an umbrella grouping, the Inter-Union Organization, which includes workers from the public sector, state-owned enterprises, and the private informal sector, as well as retirees. The organization has been deeply involved in the prodemocracy movement.
The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD), a military junta that took power in a 2008 coup, restricts freedoms of association and assembly, and the law allows authorities to ban any gathering that "threatens national unity." After the coup, the CNDD briefly banned union activity, but union leaders continued to make public statements on behalf of political reform.
In principle workers have the right to strike, but they must give 10 days' notice. Strikes are prohibited in essential services, a term broadly defined to include not only hospitals, police, and the army but also the transportation, radio and television, and communications sectors.
In practice, the right to strike is often disregarded. There has been widespread evidence in recent years that union members face reprisals for engaging in peaceful strikes. A general strike in 2008 was forcibly repressed, resulting in 129 deaths and at least 1,700 injuries. In September 2009, security forces massacred over 150 people and injured roughly 1,000 others at a union-supported antigovernment demonstration. Dozens of trade union members have been killed in acts of military repression, and union leaders have frequently been the targets of death threats.
The right to collective bargaining is legally recognized. There are no protections from antiunion discrimination, nor are trade unions protected against interference from employers. Unions can and do organize in the workplace and negotiate with employers or employer organizations. By law, arbitration is administered by consensus and implemented through the Ministry of Labor. In reality, however, employers can impose binding arbitration.
While there is little direct evidence that workers have been pressured by the government or employers to join or not join certain trade unions, the government has made efforts, with limited success, to establish docile "yellow" trade unions.
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