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Madagascar: Worsening Respect for Trade Union Rights


04 Apr 2008


Trade & Society

Brussels, 2 April 2008 (ITUC OnLine): A new law on export processing zones adopted in Madagascar in January 2008, following shortly after the adoption of a new constitution last year that entrenches the government's ability to limit the right to strike to some categories of public sector workers, bears witness to a worsening trend of respect for workers' rights, according to a report issued today by the ITUC on core labour standards in Madagascar.

This report coincides with the country's trade policy review at the WTO and highlights that in many respects, the national legislation in force in the country is in breach of the ILO core labour conventions that the country has ratified and that are legally binding.

The new law on export processing zones (EPZs) adopted in January 2008 provides for reduced rights to workers in export processing zones as compared to those subject to the standard provisions of the Labour Code.
This means, for example, that workers in EPZs can be required to exceed existing norms regarding working hours or face dismissal, hence opening the way to massive exploitation of those workers.
Despite trade union opposition, Article 33 of the new Constitution of Madagascar adopted in April 2007 reinforces the government's ability to exempt certain categories of public employees, deemed by the government to be undertaking "essential" work, from the standard provisions of the law governing the right to strike.
Other legislation in force in the country prevents the effective exercise of the right to organize and bargain collectively for categories of workers excluded from the full application of the labour code, including many public sector workers, seafarers and workers in small and medium-sized enterprises. These shortcomings have come to the attention of the ILO's supervisory organs that continue to urge the government of Madagascar to amend its legislation to comply with international labour standards.

The new ITUC survey denounces the widespread nature of child labour in Madagascar, where 22 per cent of children aged between 6 and 9 in rural areas are in full-time employment, as are 36 per cent of children between the ages of 10 and 14. Yet the Ministry of Labour employs only
77 inspectors in the whole country to implement legal provisions against child labour. It is not surprising that despite free, universal and compulsory education, the dropout rate remains extremely high.

The national legislation in force bans discrimination; however, no institution has been set up to fight the practice. Despite the fact that the law prohibits sexual harassment, this practice is widespread at workplaces and especially in export processing zones, the report underlines.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to the government of Madagascar on ways to redress its noncompliance with ILO core labour standards and to promote effective policies that tackle the major labour and social shortcomings the country is confronted with today.

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