Population: 19,599,000
Capital: Yaoundé

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: 5

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Five members of a teachers' union were arrested and charged for taking part in what was considered an illegal demonstration. Seven other trade union leaders faced harassment for similar events dating back to the end of 2010. Trade union organisations that are seen as too independent are not recognised by the authorities or face heavy challenges. Excessive legal constraints make it very difficult to freely exercise trade union rights.


Paul Biya, the country's 78-year-old President, in power since 1982, was re-elected for a sixth term in October, with nearly 78% of the votes. Nepotism, the manipulation of ethnic identities and inertia characterise the style of government in this country which languishes in 131st place on the United Nations Human Development Index.

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.

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

In practice

Interference, manipulation and favouritism:

The revision of the Labour Code, which began several years ago, has not been discussed for a long time, and there has been no discussion of a hypothetical law on trade unions, announced in 1990. In its replies to the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association, which had received a complaint from the Public Sector Trade Union Centre (CSP) about its lack of recognition, the government nonetheless used the pretext of this so-called legislative process to evade the question of the legal existence of the organisation.

In recent years, the government has relied on registration procedures that have been left too vague both in law and practice in order to prevent the registration of trade unions it deems too independent and to favour organisations it considers easier to control.

According to a 2010 ILO report, the anti-democratic nature of the government has rubbed off on numerous so-called trade union organisations, utterly lacking in ethics with corrupt management and supported by the employers.


Government refuses to negotiate with national trade union centre: The General Confederation of Labour of Cameroon-Liberty (CGT-Liberté) has been subjected to repeated interference by the government in its internal affairs. Following internal dissent, and the holding of the CGT-Liberté Congress, the Minister of Labour and Social Security (MINTSS) wrote to the union centre on 8 February in which it repeated its refusal to enter into dialogue with it.

Five teachers from the SNUIPEN arrested: On 10 November five primary school teachers were arrested during a demonstration in Yaoundé organised by the teachers' union the Syndicat national unitaire des instituteurs et des professeurs des écoles normales (SNUIPEN). A large police contingent brutally dispersed the 100 or so demonstrators, tearing up their list of demands and arresting five members of the union outside the Prime Minister's offices. They were released the following day. They appeared in court on 14 November on a charge of illegal demonstration. Their case was adjourned until 12 December, then 23 January, because the judge was away.

Judicial harassment of seven trade union leaders:

Seven trade union leaders appeared before the Court of First Instance in Yaoundé on 19 December. Their case was adjourned until 16 February 2012. It was their tenth hearing in this trial that has been continuously delayed and dogged by irregularities: absence of the judge in charge of the case, of the prosecutor that brought the case, or adjournments without reason. The accused and their lawyers have not always been informed of the hearings. The NGO Front Line has complained of the harassment of the seven trade unionists and the delaying tactics whose only effect so far has been to eat into the budget of their organisations and to hamper their operations.

On 11 November 2010, seven leaders of the Public Sector Trade Union Centre (CSP) including the President, Jean-Marc Bikoko, were arrested during a peaceful sit-in in Yaoundé. They intended to present the Prime Minister with a series of demands to improve working and living conditions. The gathering in front of the Prime Ministers offices had been banned by the municipal authorities because the request had not been made within the legal timeframe and because "public demonstrations with a vindictive nature and/or protests are and remain forbidden by law in the Mfoundi region".

Since it was formed in 2000, the authorities have always been hostile to the CSP, the principal public service workers federation. The May Day celebrations that the CSP regularly organises outside the official commemoration are suppressed and their leaders are often subject to intimidation.

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