Trade union concerned over proposed bill to curtail right to strike

Association and Peaceful Assembly

On 21st April 2017, the Committee on General Institutional and Human Rights of Burkina Faso's National Assembly notified the Union d’Action Syndicale (Organisation for Trade Union Action - UAS) of a proposed bill to regulate public service employees' right to strike. According to various civil society sources, the initiative constitutes a violation of the freedom of association and assembly.

In a letter to the president of the National Assembly, the UAS expressed concern over the legislation and demanded its withdrawal, stating that it violates workers' rights protected by the country's constitution as well as international conventions that the country has ratified, including International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and conventions, particularly ILO No. 87 on the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and ILO No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.

If passed, the law would restrict the right to strike to "collective industrial demands" and "the defense of legitimate professional and collective interests"; it would exclude certain categories of workers - such as customs officials, police officers, water and forestry sector workers, fire brigade personnel and certain administrative staff - from exercising this right. Furthermore, it would impose an obligation of prior negotiation and would allow for the recruitment of staff to replace workers on strike.

Expression

A presidential security guard assaulted and injured a journalist during the official opening ceremony of National Peasant Day on 12th May 2017.  Guézouma Sanogo, a reporter with Radio Burkina and president of the Association of Journalists of Burkina Faso (AJB) was attacked while he was looking for a seat to watch the ceremony with the country's president in attendance. 

The Movement for Human and Peoples' Rights, AJB and the Bloggers' Association of Burkina Faso condemned the attack, which they assert is part of a growing trend to limit freedom of the press. The civil society organisations urged the government to consider journalists as partners, rather than opponents, and to ensure that the security forces exercise restraint and act professionally when providing security at public demonstrations. They also requested a full investigation into the attack against Sanogo.

President Kabore later apologised for the incident, stating: "I sincerely regret what happened, because it is not normal that these things still happen in our time".