- During the last year, the trade unions of Senegal have had little reason to celebrate. More restrictions have appeared, President Abdoulaye Wade has made anti-unionist statements and one union leader was killed in an assault.
The annual survey of violations of trade union rights - released on Tuesday by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) - displays a deteriorating situation in Senegal:
- Although freedom of association and the right to strike are recognised there remain many restrictions, the reports summary says. \"The government still retains the right to grant or withdraw official accreditation of a trade union and the 2001 Constitution severely undermines the right to strike. In March the intentional arson attack on the Labour Exchange led to the death of one trade unionist.\"
The ICFTU report strongly condemns the harsher attitudes towards trade unions demonstrated by the Senegalese government during the year surveyed; 2002.
In January 2002, \"manoeuvres by President Abdoulaye Wade to undermine the trade union movement\" had caused a split within the national centre affiliated to the ICFTU, the Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs du Sénégal (CNTS), through the creation of the so-called \'Force for Change\' (CNTS-FC).
President Wade\'s dislike of the CNTS was demonstrated publicly on 4 March, at the official launch of employment week, when he addressed Mody Guiro, the CNTS General Secretary, in the following terms: \"I know all about duality and pluralism. I really don\'t know why you have been appointed or whom you represent. Even if your confederation is the most representative, how can you speak for the workers?\" And he went on: \"... if I were if charge of allocating speaking rights I wouldn\'t let you speak.\"
There were also other events in 2002 that demonstrated a harsher climate for trade unions. On 7 March, about 100 guards from the private security firm Sen Sécurité were demonstrating in front of the President\'s palace, protesting against their difficult working conditions and for the right to join a union.
There were clashes with the police and 21 guards were referred to the Dakar serious offences court. The guards went on trial for holding \"an illegal public meeting\" and \"attacking\" the police \"in the course of their duties,\" and were all given one-month deferred prison sentences. The guards had demonstrated in front of the palace to draw the public’s and the President\'s attention to their demands - they have no rights and can be sacked for making even very small requests, since their boss had banned them from joining a union.
On 21 March, the Labour Exchange - where the CNTS has its head office - was wrecked and set on fire by about 50 unidentified people. The attackers, who were armed with Molotov cocktails, clubs and knives, splashed the offices and anyone who was there with oil before setting them alight. Four trade unionists were seriously burnt in the fire and one of them, Moussa Aw, died in hospital from his burns on 31 March.
Five officials of CNTS-FC - the new government-favoured union - were charged in connection with the event: Cheikh Diop, General Secretary of both the CNTS-FC and the oil and gas trade union, Doudou Fall Niang, General Secretary of the maritime fishing union, Dame Lô and Fallou Samb of the road transport union and Matar Sčye of the clothing workers union.
During the rule of democratically elected President Wade, labour rights seem to have deteriorated year by year. Especially, the new constitution adopted in January 2001 is said to \"seriously undermine the right to strike by stipulating that strike action must not infringe upon the freedom to work or jeopardise the enterprise.\"
Otherwise, Senegalese legislation in theory widely accepts basic labour rights. Although there are severe restrictions, the Labour Code recognises the right of workers to form or join trade unions, and any group of workers in a similar trade or the same profession may create a union.
Similarly the right to strike is recognised but restricted. Also, the right to collective bargaining is recognised. Many restrictions in the Labour Code however give great powers to the government when it comes to regulate strikes and collective bargaining.
Further, these rights are not enjoyed by the majority of the Senegalese working force. The majority of workers are excluded from the Labour Code because they are in the agricultural or informal economies, where the Code does not apply.
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