Population: 85,800,000
Capital: Addis-Ababa
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The national bank tried to dissolve its workers' union with the support of the Labour Ministry, but the court ruled in favour of the union. Attempts by the teachers to get their new independent union registered were consistently obstructed, while some leaders of their former union remained in prison during the year. The labour legislation does not fully conform to international labour standards.

Trade union rights in law

The Constitution recognises the right to form and join trade unions, but much of the labour legislation is based on the restrictive 2003 Labour Proclamation, which excludes many categories of workers primarily in the public sector. Furthermore, the law does not prevent an employer from creating or supporting a workers' organisation with a view to controlling it.

Collective bargaining is limited, and all negotiations aimed at amending or replacing a collective agreement must be finished within three months or the provisions cease to apply. In addition, civil servants are not allowed to bargain on wages or working conditions.

Although workers have the right to strike, they must follow lengthy and complicated procedures which make legal strike action difficult. Trade unions can be dissolved if they carry out a strike in essential services, the list of which is extensive, or engage in political action.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Drought, poverty and to a lesser extent political persecution lead to increasing numbers of Ethiopians fleeing their country during the year. Towards the end of the year, in the run-up to the 2010 elections, the government stood accused by opposition parties of excluding opposition supporters from food-for-work programmes in order to force them to back the ruling party.

Government interference: The government continued to blatantly interfere in trade union affairs in all sectors, notably the banking and education sectors. Many trade union leaders are regularly intimidated, and most are removed from their posts and/or forced to leave the country. The government closely monitors the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU).

Bank and ministry attempt to dissolve union: On 23 January, the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) issued a notice to evict the bank workers' union from their offices in the Central Bank building. The Confederation of the Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) suggested a meeting with the NBE in order to resolve the problem which was rejected. On 26 January, the bank workers' union filed charges with the Seventh Civil Bench of the Court, to delay the deadline of the dissolution of their office and claimed that the NBE intervened in the internal affairs of the union by discontinuing collections of union contributions from members' pay.

On 17 February, the NBE responded by claiming that a December 2008 regulation by the Council of Ministers governing employees of the national bank annulled the existence of the union, which was created in 1975. This was backed up two days later by the Ministry of Labour and Social, affairs which filed a charge with the Federal High Court claiming that the union should not be allowed to exist on the basis of the same Council of Ministers' regulation.

In both cases, the courts ruled in favour of the union, in June and May respectively.

Teachers denied the right to organise: Teachers have been effectively denied the right to organise. Teachers formed the National Teachers' Association (NTA) after their organisation the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) was officially dissolved in 2008 following years of harassment. The ETA was forced by court order to give up its name, property and check off arrangements to a government-backed organisation of the same name. The NTA was initially denied registration at the end of 2008, on the grounds inter alia that the names ETA and NTA were too similar, and appealed against it. In March, after three months of trying to secure an audience with the Minister of Justice, the NTA decided to file a charge against the Ministry of Justice. The Federal Court of First Instance in Addis Ababa instructed the Ministry of Justice to produce a written response. On 22 April, the Court indicated that the Ministry of Education was not entitled to allow or deny the right of its employees to organise, and that the names NTA and ETA are different.

The court hearing was twice delayed. Finally in May, the court ruled that NTA cannot charge the Ministry of Justice for refusing to register it as professional association. The statement of the judge stated that the NTA had to apply to a state agency – yet to be formed – in line with the newly proclaimed law on Charities and Civil Organisations. This implied that an Agency which did not yet exist would be made accountable for the Ministry of Justice decision not to have registered the NTA in December 2008. The NTA had still not been registered by the end of the year.

Continued imprisonment of teaching union members: Several former leaders of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) spent part or most of 2009 in prison, where they faced mistreatment and even torture. Meqcha Mengistu, a secondary school teacher and chairperson of the former ETA East Gojam Zonal Executive, was arrested on 30 May 2007. He spent nearly three years in the Kaliti prison before being officially pardoned on 16 December 2009. Wubit Legamo, the wife of a former ETA activist, also arrested in May 2007, remained in prison until 21 July 2009. A legal report submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the ILO describes the ill treatment she and former ETA members received during their interrogation and detention in 2007. Other teachers who during the year were still awaiting compensation and reinstatement after being dismissed and/or detained and tortured because of their membership in the independent ETA include Kassahun Kebede, Woldie Dana, Berhanu Aba-Debissa, Tilahun Ayalew and Anteneh Getnet. The last two had been reported missing since 2007.

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