28 March 2012
HE Mr Albert Agossou
Ambassador for the Republic of Benin
Embassy of the Republic of Benin
87 Avenue Victor Hugo
On behalf of the TUC General Council, I should like to express our deep concern over the way in which the Government of Benin is dealing with the current teachers' strike in your country.
Our information is that the Government has resorted to dismissal, suppression of freedom of expression and arrests of trade unionists. On Tuesday 20 March, Mr Ganiou Yessoufou and his wife - teachers at the Collège d'Enseignement Général of the Akpakpa district of Cotonou - were arrested for violating the ban on meetings at the workplace. Following protests, they were released the on same day. On Wednesday 21 March, 14 teachers of the Collège d'Enseignement Général 'L'entente' of Cotonou were beaten up and detained on the orders of the Director for taking part in the sit-in strike. They were released three hours later following protests from students and unions.
These events and a number of similar incidents have taken place against the background of the intransigent attitude of the Beninese authorities who have responded to the teachers' strike with unprecedented measures of repression of fundamental rights. At a special meeting on Wednesday 14 March, the Council of Ministers decided, among other things, to suspend or dismiss all striking teachers and replace some of them with army conscripts. Moreover, the Council of Ministers banned all demonstrations and strike action, allegedly, on the basis of a decision of the Constitutional Court.
Your country, which ratified ILO Convention 98 (1968) and Convention 87 (1960), is obliged to observe the workers' rights enshrined in them. The dismissal of public sector workers on strike, their replacement by army conscripts or the prohibition of strikes are grave breaches of the Conventions concerned. The right to strike is also guaranteed and protected under the jurisprudence of ILO supervisory bodies such as the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), the Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) and the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS).
We urge you to pass on our deep concern to your Government and use your influence with the authorities to ensure that all public workers including teachers are allowed the exercise of human and trade union rights without interference or harassment by the State.