Population: 17,200,000
Capital: Antananarivo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 111 – 138 – 182

The basic trade union rights recognised in law are rarely applied in practice. A clothing company continued to ignore a Labour Ministry ruling to reinstate an unfairly dismissed union delegate.

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.

Strike limitations: 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).

Trade union rights in practice

Rights ignored ... : Labour legislation is very rarely applied and the government seldom takes any notice of the trade unions. Workers face anti-union discrimination.

... particularly in the EPZs: Legislation does grant union rights, however in practice they are flouted every day 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. The Cote Sud company, a supplier for the US based Jones Apparel Group, twice defied rulings by the Labour Ministry to reinstate a union representative dismissed in 2004 for raising the issue of workers' rights abuses at the plant. Just one company, out of the total of 62 in the EPZs, has so far signed a collective agreement. In the meantime, abuses such as compulsory overtime, night work for women and sexual harassment persist.

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.

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