Population: 9,100,000
Capital: Porto Novo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The government continued to show contempt for the unions. The year was marked by numerous strikes and demonstrations in protest at falling purchasing power. Workers met with intimidation and several trade union leaders received death threats.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association: The Labour Code recognises the right to form and join trade unions. The unions must deposit their statutes with the competent authorities, including the Ministry of the Interior, to obtain legal recognition, or face a fine or prosecution. For the ILO, this requirement could constitute an obstacle to the freedom to form trade unions. The government has agreed to amend this aspect of the Labour Code, but has not yet done so.

Collective bargaining: Workers have the right to collective bargaining, with the exception of merchant shipping employees. This right should be recognised when the new Merchant Shipping Code, currently under amendment in the National Assembly, is passed.

Right to strike: Under the Constitution, the right to strike is recognised in both the public and private sectors. Three days' strike notice is required and unions must say in advance how long a strike will last. The law allows the government to requisition civil servants in the event of a strike. It also allows the government to declare a strike illegal on specific grounds such as a threat to social peace and order.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Authorities intimidate strikers: The government did nothing to act on the demands put forward by the unions during the strikes and protest marches staged in 2008. According to the six main trade union centres, which formed a united front during 2008, the government responded to their actions with a mixture of indifference, contempt and threats. The authorities tried to intimidate striking workers, threatening to stop their pay, to recruit new staff or to requisition soldiers to replace them. The general secretaries of the trade union centres involved in the strike action received anonymous death threats by telephone. The unions denounced the failure to respond to their demands regarding the purchasing power crisis.

This 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.