Population: 20,070,000
Capital: Antananarivo

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Arrests: 1
Dismissals: 5

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Unionisation in the export processing zones and the Ambatovy mining mega project was hampered by the total disregard for workers' rights shown by most employers. The political crisis and international sanctions have heightened the pressure on workers. Employment is the priority; freedom of association is all too often an inaccessible goal.


In September, virtually all the political forces in the country agreed on a programme aimed at resolving the political crisis, including the holding of democratic elections in 2012. Madagascar has been under international sanctions since Andry Rajoelina seized power in 2009.

Trade union rights in law

Although the Labour Code provides for basic trade union rights, it also contains excessive restrictions. It is complemented by decrees. Both private and public sector workers have the right to join and form unions, except for seafarers and workers in essential services, the list of which exceeds the ILO definition. The establishment, organisation and operation of trade unions is determined by decree, and unions must provide lists of all their members, which exposes them to the possibility of anti-union abuse.

Industrial disputes must go through conciliation, mediation, and arbitration procedures determined by the authorities. Furthermore, state employees are not allowed to strike due to Article 33 of the 2007 Constitution, which stipulates that "the right to strike is recognised without prejudice to the principle of continuity of public services or to the security and essential needs of the Nation", a provision that does not explicitly exclude private sector employees either. The authorities also have broad powers to requisition public employees in essential services.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Rights trampled in export processing zones: Trade unions attending a seminar on the EPZ sector organised by the ITUC exposed the persistent and serious abuses endured by export processing zone workers: excessively high production targets unilaterally set by employers, violations of the legislation on overtime, non-payment of social security contributions and disregard for health and safety issues. Workers complained about precarious contracts signed under pressure and unfair dismissals. Fetra Lovasoa, the general secretary of the EPZ workers' federation, Fédération des syndicats des travailleurs des entreprises franches, denounced that the working conditions were akin to modern slavery. Trade unions are active in around sixty EPZ companies, mostly in the textile sector. Membership levels remain low, at between 10 and 14% of the labour force (mainly women), amounting to a total of around 5,000 workers. In July, the government announced plans to create 100,000 new EPZ jobs within five years.

Trade union proposals to break political deadlock: Despite the sidelining of civil society in Madagascar, the trade union platform grouping the most representative unions, the Conférence des travailleurs de Madagascar (CTM), has devoted considerable efforts to seeking a solution to the serious political crisis in which the country has been immersed since 2009. It has been tireless in its insistence that national dialogue is the only way out of the current deadlock, and that restoring the rule of law goes hand in hand with the implementation of the ILO recommendations on jobs, social protection and social dialogue.


Local council workers' right to strike violated:

On 21 January, police officers arrested a workers' representative during a refuse collectors' strike in Toliara. He was held in detention for 36 hours and accused of holding union meetings despite no longer being part of the staff following his retirement on 1 January.

A large number of strikes were held by local council workers across several towns and cities to demand better working conditions and better management of public finances. The right to strike came under repeated attack. In October, in Toamasina, for example, the authorities hired new workers to break the strike.

Five unionists dismissed at Ambatovy mining site:

On 28 November, the management at Manpower Development fired three trade union representatives affiliated to the Confédération générale des syndicats des travailleurs de Madagascar (FISEMA). The dismissals were made in retaliation for a letter sent by the union to the Moramanga labour inspectorate, denouncing the management's silence in response to a series of demands regarding the holding of union elections, a pay scale review, the payment of overtime arrears, and medical cover. A legal strike was staged on 12 December, to no avail. The staff went back to work the following day. On 23 December, two other unionists who had also signed the various letters exchanged outlining the workers' grievances were in turn dismissed, forcing the union to give notice of a strike planned for early 2012.

Manpower Development is subcontracted by the Sherritt mining group, which is heading the Nickel and Cobalt mining project. Following construction works providing as many as 18,000 jobs when labour needs were at their peak, the mine was set to start operations in 2012 with around 6,000 employees. It is the largest foreign investment ever seen in Madagascar. Ambatovy claims to be "a leader in operational efficiency, health and safety, environmental management, and social engagement".

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