2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Congo, Democratic Republic of

Population: 66,000,000
Capital: Kinshasa
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Many trade unionists were dismissed at the Finance Ministry whilst others remained at the mercy of managements refusing to apply legal decisions ordering their reinstatement. Several trade unions denounced the proliferation of self-styled workers' organisations, a phenomenon encouraged by employers and the authorities to dilute the trade union movement. The full exercise of the right to strike is hampered by complex procedures.


The 2006 Constitution guarantees the right to form and join trade unions without prior authorisation. However, a residency requirements of 20 years effectively bars foreign workers access to trade union office. In the private sector unions negotiate with the government and with employers in the National Employment Council, but in the public sector the government sets wages by decree. Staff of decentralised entities (towns, territories and sectors) do not enjoy the right to bargain collectively.

Although the right to strike is recognised, unions must obtain prior consent and adhere to lengthy compulsory arbitration and appeal procedures. Workers are not allowed to occupy the workplace during a strike, and an infraction of the rules on strikes may lead to incarceration of up to six months. Employers are nevertheless prohibited by law from retaliating against strikers.


Background: The security forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and other armed groups continued to commit human rights violations, including rapes in the east of the country, on a massive scale. The Congolese authorities and the international community have proved incapable of curbing the war in Kivu, which has its roots in the decay of the state, 50 years after its independence, the security implications of the former genocide movements and the greed linked to the region's vast natural resources.

Authorities encourage catastrophic proliferation of trade unions: By encouraging the formation of hundreds of unions over a number of years, the authorities have considerably and purposely weakened the trade union movement. There are reported to be around 500 officially recognised trade unions in DR Congo, a situation that has been denounced by the most representative organisations and which they describe as probably the worst case of trade union proliferation in Africa. The authorities have persistently followed the principle of "divide and rule", under the cover of promoting political pluralism. The creation of yellow and empty-shell unions has been encouraged by employers and the state. An ILO report published in 2010 confirmed these chaotic developments, deemed catastrophic for the trade union movement. It is a trend that has been driven by self interest, political ambition or misinformation about the real values and objectives of trade union pluralism. In most cases, the unions that have emerged are characterised by all-pervading corruption, and their existence has contributed the widespread violation of workers' rights.

Mass unfair dismissal of Finance Ministry employees: On 6 January, the authorities dismissed 68 civil servants, including 29 trade union representatives, from the Finance Ministry, on grounds of serious misconduct. The trade union coalition grouping several public unions, the Intersyndicale nationale du Congo, has called for the reinstatement of these employees and trade unionists, penalised for staging a strike in 2009 to demand the payment of unpaid bonuses.

Customs and excise authority refuses to reinstate trade union leader unfairly dismissed in 2005: All the procedures undertaken since 2005 by the Congolese labour centre CCT (Centrale congolaise du travail) to secure the reinstatement of several members of the trade union committee at the customs and excise authority, including trade union leader Lubamba Kabeya who was arbitrarily arrested at his employer's request then unfairly dismissed, have proved ineffective. On 15 July, the employer once again refused to respect the decision issued by the judiciary and the labour inspectorate calling for the union leader's rehabilitation.

Union elections marred by corruption: In September, two national union centres, the UNTC (Union nationale des travailleurs du Congo) and the CDT (Confédération démocratique du travail) contested the results of the union elections in the private sector (elections have not as yet ever been held in the public sector). The criticisms pointed to the absence of coordination mechanisms at the elections, the delays and the establishment of false records. The country's largest trade union centre, the CSC (Confédération syndicale du Congo), which came first in terms of votes and seats, also condemned the corruption and lack of trade union culture at the elections.

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