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The Right of Association
The Constitution provides all citizens with the right to form or belong to any trade union or other association for the protection of their interests, and workers exercised this right in practice; however, several statutory restrictions on the right of association and on trade unions remained in effect.
According to figures provided by the National Labor Congress (NLC), total union membership was approximately 4 million. Less that 10 percent of the total work force was organized. With the exception of small number of workers engaged in commercial food procession, the agricultural sector, which employed the majority of the work force, was not organized. The informal sector, and small and medium enterprises, remained largely unorganized.
The Government has mandated a single-labor-federation structure for workers, with service and industrial unions grouped under it. The NLC was the only central labor federation permitted by law. Trade unions are required to be registered formally by the Government and a minimum 50 workers are required to form a trade union; only 29 trade unions had been formally recognized by the Government at year's end. The labor movement was composed of both junior and senior staff workers; however, nonmanagement senior staff members were barred from joining the trade unions while junior staff workers, primarily the blue-collar workers, were organized into the 29 industrial and service unions that were affiliated with the NLC.
The senior staff workers were organized into 21 associations that comprised the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which claimed a membership of approximately 400,000 to 600,000. The TUC, which was composed primarily of white-collar workers, was not officially sanctioned by the Government and was prohibited by statute from affiliation with the NLC; it was also denied a seat on the National Labor Advisory Council (NLAC). These legal restrictions diluted the bargaining strength of workers. The ILO Committee of Experts has repeatedly cited these and other restrictions, including: requiring all registered labor unions to affiliate with a single central labor federation (the NLC); establishing a minimum of 50 workers to form a trade union; providing for the possibility of compulsory arbitration; giving the registrar broad powers to supervise trade union accounts; and giving the Government discretionary power to revoke the certification of a trade union due to overriding public interests.
Several labor associations disassociated themselves with the TUC following complaints that the TUC had misled its constituents during the gasoline price strike in June. At least 8 of the TUC's 29 associations left it to form the Congress of Free Trade Unions (CFTU).
Workers, except members of the armed forces and employees designated as essential by the Government, may join trade unions. Essential workers included government employees in the police, customs, immigration, prisons, federal mint, central bank, and the telecommunications sector. Employees working in designated export procession zone (EPZ) may not join a union until 10 years after the start-up of the enterprise (see Section 6.b.).
The Maritime Workers Union was active at year's end.
The Constitution prohibits anti-union discrimination, and there were no reports of such practice. Complaints of anti-union discrimination could be brought to the Ministry of Labor for mediation, conciliation, and resolution.
The NLC and labor unions were free to affiliate with international bodies; however, prior approval from the Minister was required. The NLC had affiliated with the Organization of African Trade Unions and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
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