Guinea’s National Assembly adopted a new labor code in February 2014. Guinea’s Labor Code protects the rights of employees and is enforced by the Ministry of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion. The Labor Code sets forth guidelines in various sectors, the most stringent being the mining sector. Guidelines cover wages, holidays, work schedules, overtime pay, vacation, and sick leave. The new labor code also outlaws all discrimination in hiring, including sex, disabilities, and ethnicity. It also prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment. However, the law does not provide antidiscrimination protections for persons based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The National Assembly increased employer rights to hire and fire under the 1999 revision of the Labor Code. Employers no longer need to go through the labor office in order to contract or terminate the work of an employee, and the Act removed the requirement to hire only Guinean employees. Some employers, including the Guinean government, avoid paying mandatory benefits by employing people as contractors for years at a time rather than as permanent employees. Some foreign managers cite incidents of theft, low productivity, and difficulties in terminating employees as problems.
Although the law provides for the right of workers to organize and join independent unions, engage in strikes, and bargain collectively, the law also places restrictions on the free exercise of these rights. The 2014 labor code requires unions to obtain support of 20 percent of the workers in a company, region, or trade that the union claims to represent. The new code mandates that unions provide 10 days’ notice to the labor ministry before striking, but the code does allow work slowdowns. Strikes are only permitted for “professional claims.” However, the new labor code says it does not apply to government workers, members of the armed forces, or temporary government workers. While the labor code protects union officials from anti-union discrimination, it does not extend that same protection to other workers. The labor code prohibits employers from taking into consideration union membership and activities with regard to decisions about employee hiring, firing, and conduct. The new labor code allows workers 30 days to appeal any labor decisions.
The law prohibits child labor in the formal sector and sets forth penalties of three to 10 years imprisonment and confiscation of resulting profits. The law does not protect children in the informal sector. The minimum age for employment is 16. Exceptions allow children to work at age 12 as apprentices for light work in such sectors as domestic service and agriculture, and at 14 for other work. The law does not permit workers and apprentices under 18 to work more than 10 consecutive hours, at night, or on Sundays. The Ministry of Labor maintained a list of occupations in which youth under 18 cannot be employed, but enforcement is limited to large firms in the modern sector of the economy. The penal code increases penalties for forced labor if minors are involved, but penalties do not meet international standards, and enforcement is not sufficient to deter child labor violations. The most recent statistics indicated that more than one-third of all children under 18 worked in industries considered dangerous by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO). Although the child code requires the country’s laws to respect treaty obligations and is regarded as law by the justice system, ambiguity remained about the code’s validity, because the government did not pass a required implementation text.
The Ministry of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and it conducted occasional inspections. The police division OPROGEM under the Ministry of Security was responsible for investigating child trafficking and child labor violations. While its funding and resources are generally insufficient, a budget allocation by the government to OPROGEM in 2017 signified recognition by the government of OPROGEM’s critical role investigating cases and transporting victims to NGOs for care. In 2016-2017, the government initiated four trafficking investigations primarily involving children, prosecuted four alleged traffickers and parents for facilitating trafficking, and convicted three offenders. It also continued one investigation involving 14 alleged traffickers.
Child labor occurs most frequently in the informal sectors of subsistence farming, small-scale commerce, and mining. Smaller numbers of girls, mostly migrants from neighboring countries, are subjected to domestic servitude. Forced child labor occurs primarily in the cashew, cocoa, coffee, gold, and diamond sectors of the economy. Many children between the ages of five and 16 work 10 to 15 hours a day in the diamond and gold mines for minimal compensation and little food. Child laborers extract, transport, and clean the minerals. They operate in extreme conditions, lack protective gear, do not have access to water or electricity, and face a constant threat of disease and sickness.
According to a government study conducted with the ILO and issued in 2011, 43 percent of all children between five and 17 worked, including 33 percent of children ages five to 11, 55.9 percent between 12 and 15, and 61.3 percent between 16 and 17. Of those, 93.3 percent worked in what the ILO defines as hazardous conditions – meaning 40.1 percent of all children in the country worked in hazardous conditions. This included more than one million children in fishing and agriculture, 30,619 in manufacturing, 46,072 in mining, 15,169 in construction, 204,818 in commerce and restaurants, 6,816 in transport, and 92,873 in other hazardous or dangerous work.
The Labor Code outlines general guidelines related to health and safety, but the Guinean government has yet to implement a set of practical occupational standards. The government has limited resources for this activity. The law provides that the government should support children’s rights and welfare, although in practice, the government has neither the capability nor the political will to curb the high rate of child labor. The Labor Code also stipulates that the Minister of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion maintain a list of occupations in which women and youth under the age of 18 cannot be employed. In practice, enforcement by ministry inspectors is limited to large firms in the modern sector of the economy.
The labor code allows the government to set a minimum monthly wage enforced by the Ministry of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion. On April 29, 2014 the government exercised this provision for the first time, setting the minimum wage for domestic workers at 440,000 GNF (approximately $64) per month. No minimum wage for other sectors was established. There is no known official poverty income level established by the government.
The law mandates that regular work should not exceed 10 hour days or 48 hour weeks, and it mandates a period of at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, usually on Sunday. Every salaried worker has the legal right to an annual paid vacation, accumulated at the rate of at least two workdays per month of work. There also are provisions in the law for overtime and night wages, which are a fixed percentage of the regular wage. The law stipulates a maximum of 100 hours of compulsory overtime a year.
The law contains general provisions regarding occupational safety and health, but the government has not established a set of practical workplace health and safety standards. Moreover, it has not issued any orders laying out the specific safety requirements for certain occupations or for certain methods of work called for in the labor code. All workers, foreign and migrant included, have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions without penalty.
The Ministry of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion is responsible for enforcing labor standards, and its 160 inspectors were empowered to suspend work immediately in situations deemed hazardous to workers’ health. Nevertheless, enforcement efforts were sporadic. According to the ILO, inspectors received inadequate training and had limited resources. Retired labor inspector positions went unfilled. Inspectors lacked computers and transportation to carry out their duties. Penalties for violation of the labor law were not sufficient to deter violations. The penal code calls for prison terms of up to 10 years for people found guilty of trafficking in persons. Additionally, the law subjects traffickers to forfeiture of objects of value or money received through forced labor of others. Offering someone into forced labor is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
Authorities rarely monitored work practices or enforced the workweek standards and the overtime rules. Teachers’ wages were extremely low, and teachers sometimes went six months or more without pay. Salary arrears were not paid, and some teachers lived in abject poverty.
Violation of wage, overtime, and occupational health and safety standards were common across sectors. Forced child labor, which constituted the majority of forced labor victims, occurred primarily in the gold, diamond, cashew, cocoa, and coffee sectors. There were, for example, reports of unsafe working conditions in the artisanal (small-scale) gold mining communities in the northern section of the country, where inspectors found occupational health and environmental hazards.
Despite legal protection against working in unsafe conditions, many workers feared retaliation and did not exercise heir right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions. Data were not available on workplace fatalities and accidents in 2016, but accidents in unsafe working conditions were common. The government banned artisanal gold and other mining during the rainy season to prevent deaths from mudslides, but the practice continues.
Pursuant to the Guinean Labor Code, any person is considered a worker, regardless of gender or nationality, who is engaged in any occupational activity in return for remuneration, under the direction and authority of another individual or entity, whether public or private, secular or religious. In accordance with this Code, forced or compulsory labor means any work or services extracted from an individual under threat of a penalty and for which the individual concerned has not offered himself willingly.
A contract of employment is a contract under which a person agrees to be at the disposal and under the direction of another person in return for remuneration. The contract may be agreed upon for an indefinite or a fixed term and may only be agreed upon by individuals of at least 16 years of age, although minors under the age of 16 may be contracted only with the authorization of the minor’s parent or guardian. An unjustified dismissal provides the employee the right to receive compensation from the employer in an amount equal to at least six months’ salary with the last gross wage paid to the employee being used as the basis for calculating the compensation due.
The law provides that the government should support children’s rights and welfare, although in practice, the government has neither the capability nor the political will to curb the high rate of child labor. The Labor Code also stipulates that the Minister of Social Action, Women, and Child Promotion maintain a list of occupations in which women and youth under the age of 18 cannot be employed. In practice, enforcement by ministry inspectors is limited to large firms in the modern sector of the economy.
Guinea has a young population with a high unemployment rate and lacks employees with specialized skills. The country has a poor educational system and lacks professionals in all sectors of the economy. Guinea lacks the specialized skills needed for large-scale projects.
Workers at the Port Autonome Conakry (PAC) have occasionally held strikes. The most recent call for a strike was in October 2014 to protest the awarding of the Roll On/Roll Off concession for vehicles from PAC to the secure container operator, Bollore of France. Although PAC employees did not go on strike as this time, a strike has the potential to bottleneck port operations, which would have a ripple effect in the economy as customs revenues account for 45 percent of Guinea’s revenues with 98 percent of these revenues collected at the Port of Conakry.