Population: 19,500,000
Capital: Yaoundé
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade union activism was repressed, notably at Cameroon Railways and the port of Douala, with several cases of unfair dismissals and transfers. Organisations considered too demanding or too independent were discriminated against. There are too few collective agreements and those that exist are not fully applied. Workers face prison sentences if they disregard the procedures for union registration.

Trade union rights in law

The legal framework is not favourable to trade unions despite some constitutional guarantees. For example, a union cannot include workers from both the private and public sector, and workers who organise a union and carry out trade union activities without having a registration certificate are liable for prison sentences. In addition, despite promises of reform, public servants may not form trade unions unless they obtain prior approval from the Minister for Territorial Administration. As well, they may not affiliate internationally without prior authorisation.

Although anti-union discrimination is prohibited in law and coupled with sanctions, reinstatement or compensation is not available for unfairly dismissed workers.

Finally, the right to strike is heavily restricted as arbitration is compulsory for all industrial disputes and workers who ignore the procedures can be dismissed or fined. Civil servants do not have the right to strike.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: The government continued to trample on human rights and muzzle the press in 2009. Corruption undermined the country's development. In June, President Biya reduced the price of several basic goods in the face of a mounting discontent and fears of a repetition of the 2008 riots.

Interference and discrimination: In recent years, the government has favoured those workers' organisations it sees as easier to control and used excessively strict union registration requirements to withhold recognition from trade unions it deems too independent. One example is the public service confederation, CSP, one of the country's seven trade union centres, which has not been recognised since it was formed in the year 2000. Its members often face harassment. The May Day demonstration that the CSP regularly organises on the fringes of the official commemoration was banned the day before at 9 pm. Jean-Marc Bikoko, the president of the CSP and the coordinator of the Platform for Information and Action on Cameroon's Debt, was the target of acts of intimidation: he was warned in anonymous phone calls that the intelligence services were following everything he did and said very closely.

Collective agreements flouted, out of date or non-existent: The recent signature of several collective agreements has rarely had any effect in practice. Trade unions considered too demanding or too independent have been excluded from negotiations, for example in the banking sector. The National Union of Journalists of Cameroon (SNJC) denounced the failure to implement the collective agreement adopted in 2008 after three years of bitter negotiations by the majority of press barons. At the Cameroon Water Company, one of the demands of workers taking strike action at the beginning of May was the revision of a 40-year-old collective agreement. Social dialogue has generally been scorned by employers in both the private and public sector. On 1 May half a dozen education unions demanded the establishment of a permanent framework for social dialogue, denouncing the total absence of negotiation in primary and secondary education.

Four trade unionists dismissed at Port of Douala: On 10 August in Douala, four trade union activists (Thérèse Ngo Njip, nurse, Jean Bosco Mandeng, boilermaker, Raymond Bafou, chief mechanic and Mounde Ousmanou, manager) from the Cameroon Industrial Union were sacked by the management of Cameroon Shipyard and Industrial Engineering Limited (CNIC). They had called on their colleagues to stop work on 3 August further to the breakdown in social dialogue and the merger of two enterprises that they considered far too hasty to ensure proper negotiations and the welfare of the workers. They had also denounced poor working conditions, poor health and safety conditions, and corruption by the management.

Two union leaders transferred and seven drivers dismissed at CAMRAIL: On 2 December, the Union of Free Trade Unions of Cameroon (USLC) condemned the transfer of two of its leaders by management at Cameroon Railways (CAMRAIL): Flaubert Moussole, president, and Justine Nkounawa, vice-president of the USLC Women's Committee. Both were also officials of the Wouri Railway Workers' Union (SYNTRAW). The two trade unionists were sent to Ngaoundéré, about 1,000 kilometres from their previous posts. Anti-trade unionism and poor working and safety conditions are recurrent problems at CAMRAIL. On 9 January, the railway company, which belongs to the French group Bolloré, dismissed seven train drivers as a reprisal, in the view of the Professional Train Drivers Union of Cameroon (SPCTC) and the SYNTRAW, for a strike that took place at the end of 2008.

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.