2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of

Population: 56,000,000
Capital: Kinshasa
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The year 2006 was marked by numerous strikes in several sectors throughout the country to demand that the government respect its commitments, including those on wages. Four leaders from the health workers unions were arrested, while two union activists working for a mining company were kidnapped and tortured for their union activities.

Trade union rights in law

The new Constitution of February 2006 guarantees freedom of association and the right to strike. The legislation grants all categories of workers, except for members of the armed forces, the police and the security services, the right to organise. No prior authorisation is required to set up a trade union. The right to strike is recognised, although unions must have prior consent and adhere to lengthy mandatory arbitration and appeal procedures. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against strikers.

No wage bargaining in the public sector: The right to bargain collectively is also recognised. In the private sector, unions negotiate with the government and employers in the National Employment Council (Conseil National du Travail). The government confirms the results of these negotiations in decrees. In the public sector, however, the government sets wages by decree. The government is required to consult the unions in advance, but not to negotiate with them. It is therefore able to ignore their recommendations.

Trade union rights in practice

Impunity: In many companies, employers have harassed workers wishing to exert their rights to join the trade union of their choice or to set up a trade union, or have refused to recognise these rights. Group4Securicor (G4S) repeatedly refused to meet with the union SYHTAC, which represents workers at other security companies. G4S workers had expressed an interest in joining SYTHAC.

Rights not respected in the civil service: The government has always refused to allow union elections in the civil service, though the union centres have many members working in it. Only public enterprises organise such elections.

Discrimination against the staff of decentralised administrations: The staff of decentralised administrations (towns, regions and sectors) are not unionised and do not enjoy the rights to bargain or establish a union. They are on the lowest rung of the state administration ladder and, in practice, constitute a sub-category of public servants.

Violations in 2006

Background: Historic elections brought Joseph Kabila to power as the country's first democratically elected president in over 40 years, marking the end of a three-year transitional government that followed five years of civil war. Government soldiers abducted civilians for forced labour in Ituri's goldmines and fields.

Minister of Public Health orders arrest of striking union leaders: On 20 January 2006, after negotiations failed between the Minister of Public Health and the unions, the minister ordered the arrest of Kibiswa Kwabene Naupess and Kalengayi Joseph Kibangula, both representatives of the Syndicat National des Cadres et Agents des Services de Santé (SYNCASS) and of two leaders from the nurses' union SOLSICO (Solidarité syndicale des Infirmiers/Infirmières du Congo). They were released the same evening.

Union leaders kidnapped and tortured: In May 2006, two activists of the union Force Syndicale du Congo (FOSYCO), Mutombo Mulumba and Eugène Badibanga, working for the mining company Minière de Bakwanga (MIBA) were kidnapped and tortured for their union activities. They had denounced the bad working and living conditions at the company.

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