From Mon May 10 08:45:09 2004
Subject: ICFTU OnLine: Trade union rights desperately lacking in Rwanda
Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 14:29:26 +0200
From: ICFTU Press <>
To: ICFTU Online <>

Trade union rights desperately lacking in Rwanda

ICFTU Online..., 081/100504, 10 May 2004

Brussels, 10thMay 2004 (ICFTU Online): Trade union rights are a misnomer in Rwanda according to a new ICFTU report launched to coincide with the WTO review on Rwandan trade policy (10th and 12th May). The ICFTU report on the central African country shows shortcomings in the application of several core labour conventions which the government itself has ratified and calls upon the Rwandan authorities to comply with core labour standards.

The report identifies several legal failings, particularly concerning the right to strike. For example, strikes are always subject to the obligatory intervention of a conciliation council before they can take place, and there is an excessively broad definition of so-called essential services in which strikes are prohibited. Besides these legal restrictions, the government and many employers are opposed to the idea of trade unions operating freely. Labour legislation is rarely enforced due to a lack of inspectors and an insufficient number of labour courts compounding the workers&#39; rights abuses which Rwandan workers face.

Child labour is prevalent in Rwanda. Most children work in subsistence farming, in small companies and on tea plantations. Many children, mainly war orphans, work as domestic servants. They receive low wages and abuse is common. Furthermore, there are some 7,000 street children in Rwanda, whose income is dependent on selling goods, begging and stealing. School enrolment is low and public schools lack even the most basic supplies.

Turning to the subject of discrimination, the report notes that women are mainly employed in subsistence farming and low-wage jobs. Although government programmes have contributed to progress in eliminating discrimination against women and ethnic groups, overall opportunities for employment, education and promotion for women remain limited.

The report highlights the trafficking of women and children for forced labour and sexual exploitation which is closely linked to instability and conflict in certain regions. There are also reports of forced coltan mining by prisoners, as well as other forms of forced labour.

In conclusion, the ICFTU calls upon the government of Rwanda to apply the core labour conventions that it has indeed ratified and to bring its legislation into line with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. Labour law enforcement must be improved, including better labour inspection and the establishment of labour courts. Furthermore, the government must continue to improve the position of women in the labour market. Efforts to eliminate child labour, particularly domestic child labour, and to reduce the number of street children should be sustained. Eliminating the trafficking of women and the practice of prisoner forced labour should also be a high priority.