4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliates in Cameroon are the Centrale Syndicale du Secteur Public (CSP), the Confédération des Syndicats Autonomes du Cameroun (CSAC), the Confédération Syndicale des Travailleurs du Cameroun (CSTC) and the Unions des Syndicats Libres du Cameroun (USLC).

Cameroon ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1960 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1962.

In practice

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State interference through the promotion of unrepresentative unions 11-11-2019

According to the CTSC, the Labour Ministry encourages the creation of unions without any representativeness with a view to undermining representative organisations. It also disregards the criteria established for the representation of workers in the country’s institutions, which most often appoint unrepresentative organisations rather than representative trade unions.

Union representatives still awaiting reinstatement following unfair dismissals15-08-2019

Ten union representatives from the Douala Urban Community have been awaiting a court decision on their reinstatement since April 2017. They were dismissed by the Douala municipal authorities for taking part in a strike.

Serious attacks on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining at Brasseries du Cameroun15-08-2019

Brasseries du Cameroun, part of the multinational Castel Group, refused for months to enter into negotiations on an incentive bonus for its employees, despite the recommendation made in the national collective agreement for the manufacturing industry. It is also refusing to apply the company agreement on overtime pay for Sundays.
When the brewery’s workers filed notice to strike, the labour authority convened a tripartite meeting on the day the action was due to start, to negotiate some of their demands. The strike was therefore suspended, but the company refused to negotiate with the representative unions.
The management then suspended the contracts of the three main union leaders and their dismissal was confirmed by the authorities on the grounds that they had made defamatory remarks about the company.
The representatives dismissed were Papana Bondoa Yves William, president of the Mfoundi branch of the food industry union, representative of the employee delegates and employee delegate at Group level; Kouotchop, president of the MIFI branch of the food industry union, representative of the employee delegates and employee delegate at Group level, and Mbarga Pie-Claude, representative of the employee delegates and employee delegate at Group level. The suspension of their employment contracts was announced on 15 June 2019 and their dismissals were confirmed on 5 August 2019.

Journalist and union representative Joseph Olinga Ndoa arrested and ill-treated03-11-2018

Joseph Olinga Ndoa, trade union representative and bureau manager at Le Messager newspaper, was arrested in Bafoussam on Saturday 3 November 2018 by plainclothes police officers. According to witnesses, he was punched, kicked, clubbed and dragged along the floor for several metres before being taken away in a van. He was held in a secret location and received no visits or medical care for three days before being released. On 8 November he was summoned to appear before the Court of First Instance in Bafoussam on charges of “rebellion”. According to the journalist, he had gone there to do a report after receiving a radio communiqué from the sub-prefect of Bafoussam ordering bars to close at 9 p.m. on the eve of the demonstration to be held in the city by the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC), the party led by Maurice Kamto, which was contesting the result of the presidential election.

Ban on press conference called by transport workers’ union18-09-2017

The sub-prefect of Yaoundé 2 district prohibited a press conference called by the national union of urban and interurban drivers and transporters SYNACTUIRCAM, scheduled for 18 September 2017 at its headquarters in the labour exchange (Bourse du Travail) in Yaoundé. On arriving in the morning, the trade unionist found the premises surrounded by the police. The reasons set out in the order signed by the administrative authority were non-compliance with the legal formalities in terms of prior notification and threats to public order. According to the organiser of the conference, work meetings ordinarily take place in the various offices without prior notification. The press conference had been called to provide information about the general strike organised for 25 September. This prohibition not only violates the right of trade unions to hold meetings on their premises without prior authorisation but also the right to freedom of expression through the press.

CSTC president arrested and jailed 14-07-2017

Jean Marie Zambo Amougou, president of the national trade union centre CSTC, a member of the ILO governing body and an employee of Maetur, was arrested and then jailed on 14 July 2017 for abuse of office, absenteeism and misappropriation of public funds. Following a hearing by a special criminal tribunal, Jean Marie Zambo Amougou was remanded in custody for six months.
The complaint that led to the trade unionist’s arrest reportedly came from Louis Roger Manga, the new managing director of Maetur. Prior to his arrest, Jean Marie Zambo Amougou had led several strikes as the trade union representative at the company. The new management reportedly responded by denying him access to his workplace, suspending his pay and calling for his dismissal on grounds of absenteeism. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security had opposed the dismissal, deeming there to be insufficient evidence.
Cameroon’s trade unions called for a general strike to be held in January 2018 as a sign of protest.

Doctors’ union SYMEC declared illegal 17-04-2017

After trying in vain to dissuade doctors from observing the strike scheduled for 17 April, the Public Health Ministry published, on 13 April 2017, a statement declaring SYMEC illegal. The leaders of the trade union were detained for breaching the law and medical ethics. The trade union leaders immediately responded to what they considered to be an act of intimidation, insisting that the trade union had submitted the dossier regarding the constitution of the organisation to the prefecture of Yaoundé and was not therefore illegal.

Arrests and ban on CACSC activities17-01-2017

A ministerial order published on 17 January placed a nationwide ban on all the activities, meetings and demonstrations of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, CACSC, formed by lawyers’ associations and teachers’ trade unions. The organisation, which since October 2016 has been denouncing the marginalisation of the English-speaking community, had organised peaceful solidarity activities and called for all protests to be conducted without violence. On 16 and 17 January, it had headed “Operation Ghost Town” across the west of the country. The ministerial order stated that the organisation violated the constitution and was a threat to national security, territorial integrity, national unity and national integration. Several people, including the president of the CACSC, Barrister Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, and its general secretary, Fontem Afortekaa Neba, were arrested. It was not until the end of August that a decree put an end to the judicial proceedings against the English-speaking leaders being held in jail, and that over 50 of the people arrested were released.

Police brutality during protests initiated by teachers’ and lawyers’ trade unions08-12-2016

Serious social discontent came to the surface in October in the largely English-speaking regions in the west of Cameroon. A lawyers’ strike on 11 October led to violence during two protest marches held at the beginning of November in Bamenda and Buea. The police attacked demonstrators with batons and teargas. The gowns and wigs worn by a number of lawyers were torn from them and confiscated. On 21 November, the teachers’ trade unions also went on strike. The two professions were protesting against the marginalisation of English in schools and law courts, despite the principle of bilingualism being enshrined in the Constitution. The minimal concessions made by the national authorities, the attempts to discredit the two unions and the police violence only contributed to exacerbating the tension in the cities already largely opposed to the ruling party. According to Amnesty International and the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the “unjustified and excessive” use of police force culminated between 23 November and 8 December, leaving between two and four people dead and many injured. Over 100 people were arrested and imprisoned. Two independent radio stations were temporarily shut down and Internet was cut off for weeks.

Obstacles to trade union activities in education sector06-09-2016

On 6 September 2016, Education International and its affiliates from the education trade union platform denounced the extremely long delays in processing the legal recognition of eight teaching unions. Some applications date back as far as 1991. The situation is a reflection of the administration’s hostility towards trade unionists and the real obstacles to trade union activities. The government has, in addition, shown no willingness to implement the agreements concluded with trade unions in both public and private education. Trade unions continue to be excluded from the consultation structures in the sector.

Interference and discrimination 30-08-2016

On 30 August 2016, the CSTC (Confédération syndicale des travailleurs du Cameroun), affiliated to the ITUC, denounced the authorities’ interference in its internal affairs following the Labour Ministry’s recognition of a faction claiming to have been elected as the confederation’s executive, despite a court ruling invalidating the election in question. The CSTC also criticised the Labour Ministry’s unilateral appointment of workers’ representatives to national collective bargaining commissions, without regard for the representativeness of the organisations in the sectors concerned.

Trade union elections undermined31-03-2016

Several trade union centres criticised the undermining of trade union elections in March 2016, denouncing the dubious conduct of labour inspectors and their lax attitude with regard to employers unwilling to accept trade unions. Many of those agreeing to hold trade union election colluded with labour inspectors to rule out genuine representation and to appoint supposedly independent workers’ representatives. Many workers were reluctant to stand as candidates for fear of the reprisals they would face from their employers. At Placam, in the wood sector, the personnel manager not only prohibited members of the FSTCB (Fédération syndicale des travailleurs de la construction/travaux publics/bois du Cameroun) from taking part in the election but went on to dismiss all 168 of them shortly afterwards.

Cameroon Development Corporation denies registration of trade union 07-03-2016

Fako Independent Allied Agricultural Workers Union (FINAAAWU) requested its registration as an enterprise trade union at Cameroon Development Corporation in November 2015. It took more than four months for the registration certificate to be issued. In the meantime, FINAAWU representatives were not able to participate in the election for the work council, which was held on 1 March 2016. Mr Nganso Appolinaire from the trade union DISAWOFA was elected as a result of the election. However, the company refused to recognise the results of the election.

Trade unionists arbitrarily detained in Fako 09-10-2015

On 9 October 2015, trade unionists Agbor Valantine and Ukwandum Samuel were arrested and detained in Limbe Police station on instruction of Fako Division of the South West Region. The two trade unionists that suffered arbitrarily detention were trying to sensitise their colleague with respect to the enormous interference public authorities and the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) had in the activities and internal organisation of Fako Agricultural Workers Union (FAWU). It was, in fact, during the annual FAWU congress in Limbe that CDC management and public authorities tried to influence the trade union elections by bringing in the conference hall gendarmes, police and army to manipulate the vote in favour of their chosen candidates

DISAWOFA trade union offices attacked15-08-2015

In August 2015 the Secretariat of the Divisional Syndicate of Agricultural Workers in Fako (DISAWOFA) was attacked: its doors were destroyed and documents were stolen. The act of vandalism and intimidation was reported to the Tiko legal department and police, but no investigation has been carried out.

Chinese employer’s contempt for workers’ demands at major construction site31-07-2015

On 11 and 12 July, police brutally supressed a strike launched by employees at the Menve’le dam building site. According to the strikers, police fired teargas and live ammunition at the crowd. Ten strikers were reportedly hospitalised, including two women, and several arrests were made. On 17 July, the press covered renewed violence. The striking workers, backed by the Confédération Camerounaise du Travail (CCT), denounced the abuses suffered at the hands of the employer, the Chinese company Sinohydro, including sexual harassment, corruption, unfair dismissals, poor working conditions, etc. According to the employer, only a minority of the 1,448 workers were at the root of the dispute. This show of force nonetheless prompted the Labour and Social Security Minister to intervene personally to secure a pledge from the employer to establish social dialogue and better working conditions.

Delays in transferring dues to union09-06-2015

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Cameroon, USLC, says employers often delay transferring unions dues, deducted through the check-off system, to the unions, thereby starving them of funds. It also says there has been interference and manipulation in union elections by employers, affecting most recently health workers in Mfoundi, and construction workers employed by Chinese companies.

Anti-union harassment at bank09-06-2015

The Free Trade Union Confederation of Cameroon (Union des Syndicats Libres du Cameroon – USLC) reported that members of the financial workers’ union FESYLTEFCAM at the multinational ATTIJARIWAFA bank regularly suffer verbal harassment by management, and that there had been several cases in which the union representative had been moved to a different post, without informing the labour inspector. The harassment has been so persistent that the union is thinking of withdrawing from the next union representation elections due to be held in January 2016.

The USLC also reports that there is blatant discrimination in the banking sector in general, with employers usually preferring to deal with only one union and ignoring the rest.

Three transport union leaders arrested for calling strike; one sentenced to prison10-03-2015

Jean Collins Ndefossokeng, president of the National Union of Land Transport Sector Employees (SYNESTER), and Joseph Deudie, president of the National Union of Professional Drivers and Transport Workers of Cameroon (SYNACPROTCAM), were arrested on 16 January 2015. They were detained by the Mobile Intervention Group of Yaoundé, the security forces, for “advocating crime, sedition and terrorist activity” after distributing leaflets promoting a planned strike.

Cameroon’s new terrorist law, N° 2014/028 of 23 December 2014, was introduced largely in response to the activities of Boko Haram. The union leaders warned that the authorities were trying to assimilate union activities with terrorist action.

The two unions had planned a strike on 19 January, postponed from 5 January, to protest against changes imposed by state-approved insurance companies, and against fuel price rises. In organising the strike, the unions had followed all Cameroon’s legal procedures.

On 19 January, Fioko Patrice, from the National Union of Land Transport Sector Employees (SYNESTER) union, was arrested, tried and sentenced to six months in prison in Cameroon on the same charges after distributing leaflets promoting the strike.

Jean Collins Ndefossokeng and Joseph Deudié were released on 30 January, having been held for 15 days under the provisions of the new anti-terrorist law. Fioko Patrice was released on 27 February, having served six weeks of his six-month sentence, after widespread union protests, including an international trade union campaign. In early March it was announced that all charges against the three trade unionists had been dropped.

Plantation workers arrested for going on strike25-12-2014

Workers at the Hevecam plantation went on strike on 14 December during a dispute over pay. The workers were seeking a 100 per cent pay rise and a thirteenth month annual bonus. The company offered between 50 and 55 per cent, depending on their salary grade, and no annual bonus. By 20 December there was still no solution in sight, and gendarmes were patrolling the plantations to keep an eye on the strikers. One hundred twenty-seven workers were arrested by the gendarmes and held in custody in Kribi for two days. They were released on 25 December. Further to negotiations an agreement was reached, meeting most but not all of the workers’ demands.

Government seeks to undermine education unions31-07-2014

Roger Kaffo Fokou, general secretary of the Syndicat national autonome de l’enseignement secondaire (SNAES), the independent union for secondary education workers, reported that in July 2014 the education unions were facing sanctions. He warned that grass roots unions were being dismantled, and that the government was favouring unions that had government authorisation, giving them financial support. Earlier in the year the unions had been involved in a series of strikes over the government’s slowness to deliver on promised improvements in working conditions.

Violence against trade unionists and violation of collective agreements08-11-2012

On 8 November 2012, approximately 500 members of the Musicians’ Union of Cameroon (SYCAMU) were brutally attacked by police in Yaoundé. Artists, including 85 year old Anne-Marie Nzié, known as the “Queen of Cameroonian Music” were dragged to the floor and beaten. Sixty-three musicians were arrested and held for hours before being released. SYCAMU members were protesting that a new agreement for the payment of royalties to artists has not been properly enforced.

Anti-union discrimination31-05-2012

Since May 2012, management of the company Orange, targets trade union leaders who have received notifications with unilateral changes to their employment contracts.

Collective agreements flouted, out of date or non-existent 30-11-2009

The recent signature of several collective agreements has rarely had any effect in practice. Trade unions considered too demanding or too independent have been excluded from negotiations, for example in the banking sector. The National Union of Journalists of Cameroon (SNJC) denounced the failure to implement the collective agreement adopted in 2008 after three years of bitter negotiations by the majority of press barons. At the Cameroon Water Company, one of the demands of workers taking strike action at the beginning of May was the revision of a 40-year-old collective agreement. Social dialogue has generally been scorned by employers in both the private and publicle sector. On 1 May half a dozen education unions demanded the establishment of a permanent framework for social dialogue, denouncing the total absence of negotiation in primary and secondary education.

Interference and discrimination 01-05-2009

In recent years, the government has favoured those workers’ organisations it sees as easier to control and used excessively strict union registration requirements to withhold recognition from trade unions it deems too independent. One example is the public service confederation, CSP, one of the country’s seven trade union centres, which has not been recognised since it was formed in the year 2000. Its members often face harassment. The May Day demonstration that the CSP regularly organises on the fringes of the official commemoration was banned the day before at 9 pm. Jean-Marc Bikoko, the president of the CSP and the coordinator of the Platform for Information and Action on Cameroon’s Debt, was the target of acts of intimidation: he was warned in anonymous phone calls that the intelligence services were following everything he did and said very closely.

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