Cote d’Ivoire

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, provides for the right of workers, except members of police and military services, to form or join unions of their choice, provides for the right to conduct legal strikes and bargain collectively, and prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers or others against union members or organizers. The law prohibits firing workers for union activities and provides for the reinstatement of dismissed workers within eight days of winning a wrongful dismissal claim. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties. Under the law, for a trade union to be considered representative at the business or establishment level, the union must win at least 30 percent of valid ballots cast representing at least 15 percent of registered electors. For broader organizations the trade union must have the support in one or more enterprises together employing at least 15 percent of the employees working in the occupational and geographical sector concerned. Foreigners are required to obtain residency status, which takes three years, before they may hold union office.

The law requires a protracted series of negotiations and a six-day notification period before a strike may take place, making legal strikes difficult to organize and maintain. Workers must maintain a minimum coverage in services whose interruption may: endanger lives, security, or health; create a national crisis that threatens the lives of the population; or affect the operation of equipment. Additionally, if authorities deem a strike to be a threat to public order, the president has broad powers to compel strikers to return to work under threat of sanctions. Illegally striking workers may be subjected to criminal penalties, including forced labor. The president also may require that strikes in essential services go to arbitration, although the law does not describe what constitutes essential services.

Although all workers can unionize, formal unions existed only in the formal sector. Collective bargaining agreements were negotiated only in the formal sector, and many major businesses and civil service sectors had them. Some worker organizations in the informal sector attached themselves to formal sector trade unions to better protect their rights. The law allows employers to refuse to negotiate, but there were no reports of this by unions to the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection.

The government effectively enforced the law in the formal sector. There were no complaints pending with the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection of antiunion discrimination or employer interference in union functions.

Prison guards at several of the country’s prisons went on strike for three days in August, demanding increased housing allowances, payment of clothing allowances in arrears, and a COVID-19 salary premium, among other demands. The prison workers’ union also used the strike to denounce overcrowding in the country’s prisons. Media reported prison guards at the country’s main prison threatened to release prisoners unless their demands were met. Police and gendarmes deployed to the prison to contain protesting guards, arresting several, and to prevent prisoners from using the strike to escape. Media reported the strike ended after three days when the Ministry of Justice agreed to a timeline to respond to the guard union’s demands.

Health-care workers threatened to strike several times, including in October, over the alleged nonpayment of promised COVID-19 hazard pay. Unions called off the planned October strike after productive negotiations with the government. Unions sometimes suggested, without proof, that funds set aside by the government for these payments had been embezzled. Government officials responded that any delays in payments were due to administrative procedures only.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of human trafficking, including for the purposes of forced labor or slavery. The law grants government officials the broad power to requisition labor for “national economic and social promotion,” in violation of international standards. Judges may propose that defendants convicted of certain crimes perform physical labor for the benefit of the state as an alternative to incarceration, but the defendant must accept the terms of such a sentence.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were criminal and commensurate with those for comparable crimes such as kidnapping but were seldom and inconsistently applied. The government did not provide enough resources or conduct enough inspections to enforce compliance. Forced and compulsory labor, including for children, continued to occur in small-scale and commercial production of agricultural products, particularly on cocoa, coffee, pineapple, cashew, and rubber plantations, and in the informal labor sector, such as in domestic work, nonindustrial farm labor, artisanal mines, street shops, and restaurants.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for employment is 16 years, although the minimum age for apprenticeships is 14. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18 years. Minors younger than 18 may not work at night. The Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, Ministry of Interior and Security, and Ministry of Justice are responsible for enforcing the law through inspections, investigations, penalties, and court sanctions. The National Monitoring Committee to Combat the Trafficking, Exploitation, and Labor of Children, chaired by the president’s wife, and the Interministerial Committee for the Fight against Trafficking, Exploitation, and Child Labor are responsible for assessing government and donor actions on child labor.

The List of Light Work Authorized for Children between 13 and 16 Years of Age, an order issued by the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection in 2017, introduces and defines the concept of “socializing work,” unpaid work that teaches children to be productive members of the society. The list states that a child cannot perform any work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. or during regular school hours, that light work should not exceed 14 hours a week, and that it should not involve more than two hours on a school day or more than four hours a day during vacation. In late 2016 basic education became compulsory for children ages six to 16, increasing school attendance rates and reducing the number of children looking for work.

The government took steps to address the worst forms of child labor. The Department of the Fight against Child Labor within the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, along with the two antitrafficking committees, led enforcement efforts. The government continued to implement the 2019-21 National Action Plan for the Fight against the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The plan called for efforts to improve access to education and health care for children and income-generating activities for their families, as well as nationwide surveys, awareness campaigns, and other projects with local NGOs to highlight the dangers associated with child labor. The government engaged in partnerships with the International Labor Organization, UNICEF, and the International Cocoa Initiative to implement these measures. The budget for the plan, although higher than the previous plan’s, was not fully funded by the government and international partners. The government did not make available the amount of the shortfall.

The government established six special police units in 2020 across the country to investigate child labor and child trafficking cases, and these units carried out enforcement operations. Each unit had 10-20 officers with two motorcycles, a four-wheel drive vehicle, computers, and office materials.

In February media reported police arrested four alleged traffickers and rescued 19 children suspected of being transported to work on cocoa plantations. The police operation took place while the children, reportedly all Burkinabe, were being transported from the northern town of Korhogo to the southeastern town of Aboisso.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Child labor occurred, particularly in artisanal gold mines, on farms (generally small plots), and in domestic work. Periodic, standardized data collection efforts remained weak. Efforts to counter child labor in sectors besides the cocoa industry, such as palm oil, cotton, rubber, and artisanal gold mining, also remained weak. Within agriculture the worst forms of child labor were particularly prevalent in the cocoa and coffee sectors. Inspections carried out during the year did not result in fines for child labor crimes. Penalties were commensurate with penalties for comparable crimes but were seldom applied. The number of inspectors and resources for enforcement were insufficient to enforce the law.

In urban areas children often worked as vendors, vehicle windshield cleaners, and parking attendants. In rural areas children were involved in handicrafts such as cloth weaving, agriculture, artisanal gold mining, and forestry. Those who worked in the gold-mining sector often used dangerous chemicals harmful to human health. Nationally, some children worked in housing construction and carpentry, with dangerous tools. Others worked as seamstresses, tailors, hairdressers, mechanics, welders, and in local public transport as apprentices, but under informal conditions that lacked occupational safety regulations. Some girls were exploited in sex trafficking. Others worked as cleaners in local restaurants and stores and as babysitters and housekeepers in private homes. A study released in July 2020 found that child labor in the cocoa sector had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. A follow-up study released in November found child labor rates from July to September 2020 returned to pre-COVID-19 levels.

To help prevent child trafficking, the government regulated the travel of minors into and out of the country, requiring children and parents to provide documentation of family ties, including at least a birth certificate.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

The constitution provides for equal access to public or private employment and prohibits any discrimination in access to or in the pursuit of employment based on sex, ethnicity, or political, religious, or philosophical opinions.

The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The law specifically prohibits workplace discrimination based on HIV and AIDS status but does not address other communicable diseases. The law includes provisions to promote access to employment for persons with disabilities: it stipulates employers must reserve a quota of jobs for qualified applicants with disabilities but does not provide penalties for noncompliance with this provision.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for comparable crimes, but seldom applied. Human rights organizations continued to report discrimination with respect to gender, nationality, disability, and sexual orientation and gender identity (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). The government did not provide information on employment discrimination reported or actions taken to address discrimination.

The law does not stipulate equal pay for equal work, and wage discrimination occurred. For example, there were no reports authorities took action to rectify the large salary discrepancies between foreign non-African employees and their African (i.e., both foreign African residents and citizens) colleagues employed by the same companies.

There were legal restrictions on women’s employment in certain occupations and industries, including in mining, construction, and factories, but no known limitations on working hours based on gender. The government indicated that if a woman wanted to carry out any of the work on the “prohibited list,” she needed to contact an inspector at the Ministry of Labor.

While women in the public sector generally received the same pay and paid the same taxes as men, wage inequality remained common in the nonpublic formal sector and informal sector. Additionally, reports of a reticence to hire women persisted.

While the law provides the same protections for migrant workers as it does for citizens, most faced discrimination in terms of wages and treatment.

Wage and Hours: The minimum wage varied by sector but exceeded the government’s estimated poverty level in all sectors. The standard legal workweek is 40 hours. The law requires overtime pay for additional hours and provides for at least one 24-consecutive-hour rest period per week. The law provides workers the right to refuse employer requests to work overtime without threat of termination.

The government did not effectively enforce minimum wage and overtime laws. The Ministry of Employment and Social Protection enforced wage and hour protections only for salaried workers employed by the government or registered with the social security office. Labor unions contributed to effective implementation of the minimum salary requirements in the formal sector. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes but were seldom applied.

Sectors in which alleged violations of wage, hour, and overtime laws were common included domestic work, residential and commercial security, and day labor. Human rights organizations reported numerous complaints against employers, such as improper dismissals, excessive hours, uncertain contracts, failure to pay the minimum wage, and the failure to pay employee salaries. The failure to enroll workers in the country’s social security program and pay into it the amount the employer deducted from the worker’s salary was also a problem. Resources and inspections were not sufficient to enforce compliance. Administrative judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes occupational safety and health standards that apply to both the formal and informal sector. The law provides for the establishment of committees of occupational, safety, and health representatives responsible for verifying protection and worker health at workplaces. Such committees are to be composed of union members. The chair of a committee could report unhealthy and unsafe working conditions to the labor inspector without penalty. By law all workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. They may utilize the inspection system of the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection to document dangerous working conditions. Authorities effectively protected employees in this situation working in the formal sector.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance with the law, and inspectors lacked specialized training. Inspectors do have the authority to make unannounced inspections, but they are not authorized to assess penalties. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, but labor inspectors reportedly accepted bribes to ignore violations.

Human rights organizations reported that working conditions at illegal gold-mining sites were poor and dangerous due to the unregulated use of chemicals and large detonations that can result in deadly mudslides. Other sectors in which violations and accidents were common included construction and agriculture.

Based on statistics provided by the country’s social security fund, the government reported an average 6,000 occupational accidents and five deaths annually in the private formal sector between 2017 and 2019. The government did not provide data on accidents in the public sector or the informal sector.

Informal Sector: Based on 2019 data, the government estimated 90 percent of the total labor force worked in the informal economy, in which labor standards were generally not enforced. The law does not cover several million foreign migrant workers or workers in the informal sector, who accounted for 70 percent of the nonagricultural economy. Employees in the informal manufacturing sector often worked without adequate protective gear. The government, through the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, developed a 2019-21 strategic plan for conducting labor inspections in the informal sector. In 2020, with support from the French government and the International Labor Organization, the government piloted a program to conduct inspections in several industries in the informal sector, including building construction, carpentry, and hair.

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