4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Côte d’Ivoire

The ITUC affiliates in Côte d’Ivoire are the Centrale syndicale Humanisme (CHS), the Confédération Ivoirienne des syndicats libres (CISL-DIGNITE), the Fédération des Syndicats Autonomes de Côte d’Ivoire (FESACI) and the Union Générale des Travailleurs de Côte d’Ivoire (UGTCI).

Côte d’Ivoire 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 1961.

In practice

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Unfair dismissal of striking workers15-12-2019

Some 120 employees of Jumia Côte d’Ivoire, an Ivorian branch of the Nigerian e-commerce company, have been dismissed since the end of July 2019. According to the general secretary of SN TESCI (Syndicat National des Travailleurs d’Ecart Services Côte d’Ivoire), who was himself fired, this wave of dismissals began after the workers staged a strike from 9 to 13 July 2019 to press for better working conditions. The SN TESCI called for the workers to be reinstated and compensated, and urged the management to respect their right to freedom of association.

Strikers arrested and demonstrators violently dispersed05-03-2019

Lucien Goudalé, a French teacher at the municipal high school of Man and general secretary of the Tonpki branch of the COSEFCI (Coalition Secteur Education-Formation de Côte d’Ivoire), was arrested with four of his colleagues on Tuesday 5 March 2019 for joining the strike called in January. Colleagues from other towns who had come to demand their release were dispersed with tear gas. Seven other teachers were suspended for six to twelve months.

Leader of secondary school teachers’ union arrested04-03-2019

Raphaël Kouamé Kouamé, general secretary of secondary school teachers’ union CESCI (Coordination des Enseignants du Secondaire de Côte d’Ivoire) and a philosophy teacher at the Anyama high school, was arrested after raising teachers’ awareness of the call for strike action launched a month earlier. He was taken to the Abidjan police headquarters where he was questioned and then charged with disrupting public order.

Trade union leader arrested18-02-2019

Johnson Zamina Kouassi, general secretary and spokesperson of the teachers’ and researchers’ union CNEC (Coordination Nationale des Enseignants-Checheurs), was charged and imprisoned on 18 February, in Abidjan, for “disrupting public order”. According to the national platform of professional workers’ unions in the public sector, the PFN, the arrest, made during the fifth week of a strike by teaching staff at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan, constitutes a violation of trade union freedoms in Côte d’Ivoire and threatens the five-year social pact signed in 2017. This agreement was aimed at settling the wage arrears owed to some 130,000 public servants over a number of years. The unions demanded “the lifting of all inappropriate punitive measures against our colleagues from the CNEC”. Johnson Zamina Kouassi, released after ten days in prison, was prosecuted for a number of offences including kidnapping, disrupting public and political order, and verbal abuse”.

Teaching union representative arrested04-02-2019

Following the indefinite strike launched by the education/training sector coalition COSEFCI (Coalition du Secteur Education/Formation de Côte d’Ivoire) on 22 January, Sagne Kotchi, a teacher and coordinator of COSEFCI, was arrested on 4 February by law enforcement officers. The day after her detention, she suffered a severe increase in blood pressure at the police headquarters in the Plateau district and was rushed to hospital. According to COSEFCI spokesperson Pacôme Attaby, the police allegedly made her release conditional on the suspension of the strike. Sagne Kotchi was finally released on 7 February.

Three teachers arrested during strike21-11-2018

Three teachers (Annicet Gré, Julien Atté and Edoukou Adou), taking part in the two-day strike called by the coalition of education and training sector unions, COSEF-CI, were arrested at the Felix Houphouët-Boigny College in Korhogo for holding an awareness-raising meeting in the teachers’ staffroom. COSEF-CI had called the strike to press for housing allowances, the elimination of classes on Wednesdays, an increase in school exam bonuses, the suppression of the competitive exams for assistant teachers recruited at lower secondary school (BEPC) level and an increase in the recruitment of school teachers from primary to Baccalaureate level.

Two trade unionists arrested during strike08-11-2018

On 8 November, a nurse and a nursing assistant taking part in strike action were arrested in Marcory and driven to the police station in Plateau. The arrests were made the day after the government had declared the strike called by the Coordisanté trade union movement illegal. The government had threatened the strikers with punitive measures, including possible arrests. The strike was held to press for better pay, benefits and bonuses. The two strikers arrested were released two days later, following the announcement that the strike was being called off.

Trade unionists arrested during peaceful demonstration18-06-2018

Around 40 people, including seven members of agronomists’ union SYNATACI, were arrested on 18 June during a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. According to the general secretary of SYNATACI, Stéphane Tersia, the police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators at the start of the sit-in.
The agronomists had launched the protest movement following the failure of the discussions between SYNATACI, the Public Service Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the completion of the draft decree regarding an incentive bonus for employees of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the return of certain activities transferred to decentralised departments to structures under ministerial supervision, and the payment of bonus arrears from the year 2016 to the employees of twenty regional departments.
The seven trade unionists were finally released late in the evening of 19 June on the orders of the public prosecutor.

Police arrest five teachers during strike30-11-2017

Five workers, members of the MEEPCI (Mouvement des Enseignants et Éducateurs du Privé de Côte d’Ivoire), which represents staff in the private education sector, were arrested by the police on 29 November in Yopougon. According to the president of the Intersyndicale representing private secular education workers, the arrests are the result of the nationwide strike called on 21 November by the heads of the inter-union organisation. The trade unions are demanding better working and living conditions.
The arrests bizarrely coincided with the opening of the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan. The head of the police, contacted by telephone, did not wish to comment on the matter.

Customs officers arrested and one seriously injured 20-10-2017

At least 20 Ivorian customs officers were arrested and another was seriously injured after a 48-hour strike was launched on 17 October. Strike notice had been given on 25 September by the customs officers’ trade union Renouveau Syndical des Agents de Douanes de Côte d’Ivoire (RSD-CI), to press for the reform of their mutual health cover, under which they currently have to visit the customs hospital before being able to go to an accredited clinic to receive treatment. The trade union went ahead with the strike after negotiations with the general management had failed. This is not the first incident of this kind. In January 2016, the gendarmerie killed one worker and injured three others during a strike at the SUCAF sugar company.

Students faced with police violence and arrests13-10-2017

The country’s main student union, the FESCI (Fédération des Élèves et Étudiants de Côte d’Ivoire), reported that several people had been seriously injured and over twenty arrested following clashes between the police and students on 13 September. The trade union and the government both refuse to accept responsibility. According to the trade union, the police fired real bullets, beat demonstrators with batons and used tear gas to disperse students who were staging a peaceful march in Cocody in protest at the rise in matriculation fees. The Ministry of the Interior and Security, meanwhile, claims that the students attacked the police. The national education minister, for his part, said that he did not recognise the trade union organisation and announced that legal proceedings had been initiated against Fulgence Assi, the general secretary of the FESCI.
Some days later, on 18 September, marches organised by the FESCI were once again violently repressed by the national police, which dispersed the students with tear gas and water cannon, made arrests and issued a wanted notice for two individuals accused of public disorder. The police also used force against and unlawfully detained journalists covering the event and confiscated their work equipment. In a statement published on 20 September, the trade union gave the government 48 hours to start negotiations.

Freedom of association flouted01-08-2017

Unionised workers at Libya Oil, Petroci and Klenzi are confronted with restrictions, reduced benefits, job insecurity, harassment and threats of dismissal. In July, for example, the management at the fuel distribution company Klenzi, which refused to recognise and meet with the union representatives, openly harassed and threatened to dismiss workers who continued to be members of the trade union. The national union of oil company workers SYNTEPCI wrote to the Labour Ministry to ask how it intended to deal with these threats, which constitute a blatant violation of the workers’ right to freedom of association.

Striking public employees detained and placed under house arrest30-04-2017

In April, during the second day of the public service employees’ strike organised by the Coordination des Syndicats de la Fonction Publique (COSYFOP), several altercations took place and arrests were made. In Divo, four trade unionists were detained and taken to the police station. In Yamoussoukro, the local union coordinator, Yao Boni, was placed under house arrest, and in Bouaflé, the president of the school establishments management committee, COGES, burst into a secondary school and threatened the strikers with a firearm.

Trade unions’ freedom of assembly violated01-04-2017

The national platform of public sector trade unions, Plateforme Nationale des Syndicats du Public, denounced a blatant violation of trade union rights, in March, following the administration’s last-minute refusal to provide it with a room for an extraordinary general meeting at the University of Cocody, where the platform usually holds its general meetings. Following a three-week strike in January, public workers’ unions had suspended their action for a month, to “give negotiations a chance” with the government. The refusal to allow the general meeting prevented the trade unions from deciding whether or not to reinitiate strike action, following the submission of a memorandum by the Public Service minister regarding a “social truce”. It was therefore postponed and extended to the whole country. Some days later, discussions with the government were resumed and a five-year social truce was finally signed in August.

Police repression, 24 Trade Ministry employees arrested27-07-2015

On 27 July 2015, in Abidjan, police officers forcibly dispersed a gathering of 200 strikers from the Trade Ministry. They fired teargas and arrested 24 public servants, including four women. The spokesperson for the Syndicat National des Agents du Ministère du Commerce de Côte d’Ivoire (SYNAMIC-CI) explained that the protest had been peaceful until that point, and that the participants had just begun making their way to the National Blood Transfusion Centre, to bring a civic gesture to their action. The strike, initially meant to last for two days, was extended until 15 September, when the government pledged to restore the dialogue with the union and to take every action to lift the sanctions taken against the strikers.

Occupation of union offices:19-06-2015

The head office of FESACI has been occupied by armed forces since June 2011. The government has failed to respond to multiple complaints made by the union.


Jean Pierre Tchotche is a union representative at the company Aggreko in Côte d’Ivoire. He was arrested by police in January 2015 when management alleged that he had been sending complaints about low wages to the company’s headquarters in Europe. The company also dismissed him based on this allegation.

Ministries turn their backs on negotiations:19-06-2015

Months of negotiation with the Finance and Budget Ministry over living and working conditions, begun in 2013, amounted to nothing when the Ministry was divided in two and the Treasury Workers Union of Côte d’Ivoire OSATI had to start again
By September 2014 no progress had been made, the ministries acted as though the previous negotiations had never existed, and the Budget and Finance Ministers sent their heads of cabinet along rather than attending the negotiations themselves. In frustration the General Secretary of OSATI, Benjamin Gbogbeu Yaoue, called a 72 hour strike to begin on 9 September. The strike forced the Ministers back to the negotiating table. Despite seeming to agree on most of the negotiating points however,
the Finance Minister kept delaying finalising an agreement, and by November 2014 the unions reported they had still not had their demands satisfied. The situation dragged on, with the unions accusing the government of bargaining in bad faith.
Workers employed by the Construction Ministry had experienced similar frustrations when the government failed to come up with any proposals in response to their pay
demands. The General Secretary of the construction workers’ union Syndicat libre des agents de la Construction (SYLAC) announced a strike on 21 August 2014 in an attempt to force progress, but advised members to simply stay at home because nine of their members had been arrested in March that year for taking part in demonstration in support of their demands.

Right to strike violated in education and forestry sectors, dozens of trade unionists transferred01-02-2015

After two legal strikes, in February and May 2015, by the Coalition Nationale des Agents Techniques des Eaux et Forêts (CNATEF), the government reacted by transferring around twenty trade union representatives, initiating disciplinary procedures against strikers and suspending the pay of trade union leaders. Following the intervention of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), and protests held by its affiliates, all the sanctions were lifted and a negotiating mechanism was set up.

At the start of the new school year, in September, around 30 teachers, all trade union representatives, received notice of transfer from the Ministry of National Education and Technical Education. Their trade union organisations subsequently learnt that the authorities had taken this measure to punish the leaders of the strike, which had brought the education sector to a standstill in March and April 2015. The activists were transferred far away from their homes. The trade unions have since been relentless in their call for the overturning of this arbitrary decision, which violates the right to strike.

Anti-union discrimination:01-11-2014

There is an enormous amount of cases of anti-union discrimination. For example, in November 2014, members of the Syndicat Libre des Agents du Port Autonome d’Abidjan conducted their congress under serious pressure. The management of the port threatened workers participating in the congress or having contact with the national centre with dismissal.

State refuses to recognise union leadership04-08-2014

The state has been refusing to recognise the leadership structure of the FESACI since 2012, even in spite of the Extraordinary Congress held in September 2013. The government is favouring the dissident group, which it is supporting and manipulating. The Employment Minister refuses to meet with the legitimate leaders of the federation.
The government has excluded the FESACI from all the tripartite structures on which trade union centres sit: the General Mutual Fund of Public Servants and Employees of Côte d’Ivoire (MUGEF-CI) in April 2012, the National Social Security Fund (CNPS) in June 2013, the National Labour Council (CNT) in July 2013, the Labour Advisory Council (CCT) in July 2013 and the Occupational Training Development Fund (FDFP) in February 2014. The government has deliberately chosen to meet solely with the organisations controlled and manipulated by the state.

FESACI headquarters occupied04-08-2014

The headquarters of the FESACI have been occupied by the armed auxiliaries of the FRCI (Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire) since June 2011, preventing the trade union’s access to them. It is still being occupied despite the many complaints and approaches made to the authorities.

Public authorities fail to remit union dues to teachers unions18-05-2014

Moreover, public authorities fail to remit union dues to the Syndicat autonome de l’enseignement primaire public de Côte d’Ivoire (SAEPPCI), the Syndicat libre des enseignants du secondaire général (SYLEG), and to the affiliates of ISEF (Intersyndical du Secteur Education-Formation) despite a valid collective agreement.

FESACI leaders questioned by police18-05-2014

Marcel Ette, FESACI former Secretary General, Boka Atte, President of the Congress Organizational Committee and Felix Kouame, the newly elected FESACI Secretary General, were questioned by police for four hours on 29 October 2013 regarding the union elections.

FESACI reports more than thirty cases of arrests of union members18-05-2014

FESACI reports more than thirty cases of arrests of union members. On 4 February 2013, during the strike, 12 teachers have been arrested among them: LIDA Jean-François, SIE ESSIAGNE Simon, KOUASSI KANGAH C. Teachers were claiming better working conditions. From 4 March to 6 March 2014, civil servants at the Ministère de la Construction went on strike. It was organised by FESACI along with other unions, to demand higher wages. Police intervened in the strike and arrested 21 workers who were detained at the police station and released when the union stepped in.

Disciplinary measures were taken by the Ministry against these leaders. The union leader Basile Mahan Gahe was arrested in April 2011 for legitimate strike action was detained and tortured and died as a result in September 2013.

Judicial processes do not lead to redress in cases of dismissals of trade unionists18-05-2014

The Fédération des Syndicats Autonomes de Côte d’Ivoire (FESACI) reports lengthy judicial processes in various cases often not leading to effective redress against unfair dismissal of union members or leaders. In particular, following a strike at of Methodist Teachers, organised by the SYNESEM (Syndicat des Enseignants du Secondaire Méthodiste) in November 2003, the General Secretary of SYNESEM, Jean-Claude Rabet, and three other leaders were dismissed. The case has been referred to the Supreme Court and is still pending, leaving these teachers in the unknown.

Arrest of teachers on strike08-04-2013

Six teachers involved in strike action, members of the Intersyndicale du Secteur Education-Formation (ISEF), were arrested in Yopougon and Cocody. They were accused of disturbing the public order and taken to the police station for questioning.

Imprisonment of trade unionist09-03-2013

Basile Mahan Gahé was freed from prison in December 2012 after 18 months in detention in Boundiali. Gahé is the General Secretary of the national trade union centre Dignité. He resumed his trade union duties on 9 March 2013.

Refusal to bargain in good faith31-01-2013

In January 2013, public sector workers filed a collective strike notice when the minister for the public sector and administrative reform refused to bargain in good faith. The workers are demanding a wage increase and the payment of allowance arrears that have been held back for more than 20 years. They are also asking for an improvement in family allowances, housing benefits and transport allowances.

Trade unionist abducted in Abidjan16-09-2012

Mousso David, information and mobilisation secretary of the dockworkers’ union “Collectif National des Dockers Transit” (CNDD), was abducted by men in military fatigues in Abidjan. He was found injured the following day, deep in the Banco forest

Legal proceedings30-04-2012

In 2011, the syndicat national des enseignants du second degré de Côte d’Ivoire (SYNESCI) finally succeeded in recovering its headquarters at Yopougon Nouveau Quartier. The trade union headquarters have been occupied by armed men since 2006. The SYNESCI was able to organise its 22nd Congress in Yamoussokro in April 2012.

Union divisions encouraged, representativeness undermined 31-12-2010

With no objective criteria set down in the labour code, there are no guarantees for the recognition of representative trade unions. This lack of precision has enabled both public and private employers to refuse to negotiate, while discrediting trade unions or repressing their activities. The socio-political chaos has weakened the trade union movement, and dissent has been encouraged in several public sector unions.

Public sector agreements ignored30-11-2009

The health and education sectors and the civil service were frequently paralysed by strikes over the failure to meet promises on pay, statutes and legal advantages. Repeated strikes by education workers resulted each time in commitments by the government or the President of the Republic. However, the agreements were never implemented and the strikers were punished (see “Violations 2009”).

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