Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of all workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions of their choice. All unions must be authorized by the Ministry of Public Security and Immigration, which may order the dissolution of a union that does not comply with the law as determined by the ministry. The law provides for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. While there are no restrictions on collective bargaining, the law authorizes the government to intervene under certain circumstances. The law recognizes the right to strike but restricts the right of civil servants and employees of state enterprises to do so. The law requires a 72-hour notification before a strike. Civil servants and employees of state enterprises must complete a mediation process before initiating a strike, but there is no specified timeline for this process. Employees of several public entities classified as essential services, including postal workers, abattoir employees, and nine more categories, must continue to provide a certain level of services and may be “requisitioned” at the government’s discretion during a strike. The law permits imprisonment with hard labor for participation in an illegal strike. The labor code prohibits antiunion discrimination and explicitly covers all workers, including foreign and irregular workers. The law requires reinstatement of workers fired for union activity. Union members reported these protections were not always respected.
The government effectively protected freedom of association and collective bargaining, although both were subject to delays, primarily due to administrative difficulties in convening key officials for negotiations. Penalties were sufficient to deter violations, according to an inspector at the Ministry of Labor, although widespread reports of violations continued in media and among NGOs.
There were no reports of restrictions on collective bargaining or punishment of workers for participating in illegal strikes. More than 90 percent of employees in the formal sector belonged to unions. The majority of workers were self-employed and nonunionized, working as cultivators or herders. State-owned enterprises dominated many sectors of the formal economy, and the government remained the largest employer. Unions were officially independent of both the government and political parties, although some unions were unofficially linked through members’ affiliation with political parties.
Public-sector employee unions staged a number of strikes during the year to protest late or nonpayment of salaries, allowances, bonuses, and stipends. Contrary to previous years, strikes that occurred during the year were not accompanied by demonstrations, due to the Ministry of Interior and Public Security 2016 ban on demonstrations, which was challenged by the bar association in an ongoing case.
The government did not give priority to meeting with trade unions. In October 2017 the unions’ Workers Coalition released a press note stating that the government did not fulfil its pay and allowance commitments; thus, the coalition was exploring all possibilities to return to negotiations. The president of the main UST union also warned that it would call for strikes if needed.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The revised penal code signed into law May 2017 criminalizes labor trafficking offenses, including forced labor.
Articles 327 and 331 of the penal code together criminalize “involuntary labor” or servitude through the use of force, fraud, or coercion and prescribe a penalty of two to 10 years’ imprisonment, or a fine of 100,000 to 1 million CFA francs ($170 to $1,700), or both. Articles 328 and 331 together criminalize slavery through the use of force, fraud, or coercion and prescribe penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and 200,000 to 10 million CFA francs ($340 to $17,000). These penalties were considered sufficient to deter violations, according to a director at the Ministry of Justice. There are no penalties for forced prison labor, which was common, according to human rights NGOs.
Government efforts to enforce the law were not consistently effective. Resources, inspections, and remediation with regard to forced labor were inadequate. There were no reports of prosecutions during the year.
Forced labor, including forced child labor, occurred in the informal sector. Children and adults in rural areas were involved in forced agricultural labor and, in urban areas, forced domestic servitude.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The labor code stipulates the minimum age for employment is 14. The law provides exceptions for light work in agriculture and domestic service at age 12. The legal minimum age for employment, a lack of schooling opportunities in some areas, and tribal initiation practices contributed to a general acceptance of working children if they were 14 or older, some of whom may be engaged in hazardous work. The minimum age for military recruitment is 18, and the minimum age for conscription is 20. The law prohibits the use of child soldiers (see 1.g.).
The Ministry of Labor provided training to labor inspectors on children’s issues. The Office of Labor Inspection is responsible for enforcement of child labor laws and policies, but the government did not effectively enforce the law. Child labor remained widespread, but authorities did not prosecute any cases during the year, according to officials at the Ministry of Labor. Labor laws apply to work only in formal enterprises; they do not protect children working in informal activities, such as domestic service. Penalties for breaking child labor laws range from six days’ to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of 147,000 to 294,000 CFA francs ($250 to $500), or up to 882,000 CFA francs ($1,500) for repeat offenders, which was not sufficient to deter violations. The law does not impose penalties “if the breach was the result of an error as to a child’s age, if the error was not the employer’s fault.” Police sometimes took extrajudicial action, such as arresting and detaining persons without a court warrant, against child labor offenders. Traditional leaders also sometimes meted out traditional punishments, such as ostracism, according to local human rights organizations.
While the government did not have a comprehensive plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, it worked with UNICEF and NGOs to increase public awareness of child labor. In addition, efforts continued to educate parents and civil society on the dangers of child labor, particularly for child herders.
Child laborers were subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, and forced labor in cattle herding, agriculture, fishing, and street vending. Chadian children were also found in forced cattle herding in Cameroon, the CAR, and Nigeria. Child herders often lived in substandard conditions without access to school or proper nutrition. Their parents and herders generally agreed on an informal contract for the child’s labor that included a small monthly salary and a goat after six months or a cow at the end of a year. Local NGOs reported, however, compensation often was not paid. According to the Chadian Women Lawyers’ Association, girls sold or forced into child marriages were forced by their husbands into domestic servitude and agricultural labor.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law and labor regulations prohibit employment or wage discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin/citizenship, or membership in a union. There are no laws preventing employment discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or having other communicable diseases, or social origin.
Workers may file discrimination complaints with the Office of the Labor Inspector, which conducts an investigation and subsequently may mediate between the worker and employer. If mediation fails, the case is forwarded to the labor court for a public hearing. The final decision and amount of any fine depend on the gravity of the case–147,000 to 294,000 CFA francs ($250 to $500) for an initial offense, and fines of 288,000 to 882,000 CFA francs ($490 to $1,500) or six to 10 days in prison for a subsequent offense. The government did not effectively enforce these laws and regulations. The penalties were not always sufficient to deter violations, according to a labor inspector from the Ministry of Labor.
Women generally were not permitted to work at night, more than 12 hours a day, or in jobs that could present “moral or physical danger,” which is not defined. Persons with disabilities frequently experienced employment discrimination. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on nationality, foreign nationals often had difficulty obtaining work permits, earned lower wages, and had poor working conditions. LGBTI persons and HIV-positive persons faced social and employment discrimination and generally did not reveal their sexual orientation, according to media.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage was 60,000 CFA francs ($102) a month, greater than the World Bank poverty rate of $1.90 per day. A total of 38.4 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. The law limits most employment to 39 hours per week, with overtime paid for additional hours. Agricultural work is limited to 2,400 hours per year, an average of 46 hours per week. All workers are entitled to uninterrupted rest periods of between 24 and 48 hours per week and paid annual holidays.
The labor code mandates occupational health and safety standards that are current and appropriate for main industries. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous working conditions without jeopardy to their employment, but they generally did not do so. The labor code gives inspectors the authority to enforce the law and explicitly covers all workers, including foreign and informal workers.
The Office of the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor has responsibility for the enforcement of the minimum wage, work hours, and occupational health and safety standards. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The minimum wage was not effectively enforced, and many persons were paid less, especially in the informal sector. The 30 labor inspectors in the Ministry of Public Works were insufficient to enforce the law. Labor inspectors may refer cases to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights for prosecution. Inadequate budget and staffing, lack of worker knowledge of their rights, and corruption impeded effective enforcement. Authorities did not always respect legal protections for foreign and irregular workers. Violations of safety and health standards may lead to penalties ranging from approximately 75,000 to 300,000 CFA francs ($127 to $510). Penalties for second offenses may include fines of more than 500,000 CFA francs ($850) and between one and 10 days’ imprisonment. An inspector from the Ministry of Labor reported that these penalties were not adequate to deter violations.
Salary arrears remained a problem for some private-sector employees. Workers did not always avail themselves of their rights concerning work hour limits, largely because they preferred the additional pay.
Multinational companies generally met the government’s acceptable occupational health and safety standards. The civil service and local private companies occasionally disregarded occupational health and safety standards. Local private companies and public offices often had substandard conditions, including a lack of ventilation, fire protection, and health and safety protection.