Eastern Africa Trade Unions

by | August 19, 2020


According to Countryaah.com, Madagascar is a country located in Eastern Africa. The number of wage workers in Madagascar is very small. Trade unionists are often harassed, especially in the free trade zones, but strikes still occur.

Wages are often set by a tripartite committee, but collective bargaining also occurs and increases in scope.

Madagascar’s trade union movement has been an important force in the opposition to the government’s austerity policy and, among other things, contributed to the government ratifying the ILO Convention against the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Despite this, the country’s protracted political crisis has led to a sharp increase in the proportion of child workers.



The trade union movement is divided and consists of hundreds of different unions that, to some extent, are affiliated with political parties. In addition, there are also different types of professional associations. There are nine central trade unions, five of which are affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. Most were previously affiliated with political parties but are now more autonomous.

The five who are affiliated with the ITUC are:

  • Firaisan’ny Sendikan’ny Mpiasan’i Madagasikara FI.SE.MA (website in French) with 15,220 members.
  • Confederation des Travailleur Malgaches with 8,000 members.
  • Sendika Krisitianina Malgasy, (Chrétienne des Syndicats Malgaches), SEKRIMA (website in French) with 38,111 members.
  • Confédération des Syndicats des Travailleurs de Malagasy Révolutionnaires, FISEMARE med 20 135 medlemmar.
  • Union des Syndicats Autonomes du Madagascar, USAM with 8,538 members.

There are also two different collaboration bodies; Front des Fédérations des Syndicats which is politically independent but lacks its own finances and Intersyndicale, a cooperation forum that tries to unite the central organizations in common issues. In addition, there is a special union for the workers in the free zones, the Fédération des syndicats des travlaurs des entreprises franches, which has succeeded in implementing certain improvements.


Labor legislation meets basic requirements for trade union rights. Malawi also has a labor court where the central trade union Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) sits. However, the Court lacks the financial means to function satisfactorily. A joint work with unions, government and employers is underway to counter the spread of HIV / AIDS. The MCTU’s Women’s Committee has organized several major activities against violence against women. A project where many young people have been “exported” as labor to Dubai, Korea and others. countries have been heavily criticized by the MCTU. The young people are exploited and long for home according to MCTU. MCTU has also been strongly involved in the work against child labor.

Many testimonies of harassment by union members have been reported, but strikes are still common.



Today there are two central trade unions: the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) with 200,000 members in 23 unions and the Congress of Malawi Trade Unions (COMATU) which broke away from the MCTU in 2000 and has 2 member unions. MCTU is affiliated to the World Trade Union Confederation, International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and to the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.


The right to strike is statutory, but in practice all conflicts lead to compulsory mediation and the government has the right to go in and decide a dispute. The government also sets minimum wages, which in reality also become the norm for the actual wage level. It is difficult to join a trade union for migrant workers, especially in the economic free zones where several thousand workers have lost their jobs due to their trade union activity. The international industry union, Indusriall, is running a campaign with the CTSP (see below) to improve the situation of immigrant workers.

Only about a third of the workforce is unionized and within the free trade zones only 12.5 percent due to the union often being denied access to it. The free trade zones mainly include the textile and sugar industries.

In 2019, a new labor market law was adopted which – if fully implemented – strengthens trade union rights and is seen as a great victory for trade unions.



Mauritius is one of 18 countries in East Africa. In Mauritius, there are more than 350 unions and seven central trade unions in the country with a total of about 125,000 members.

The five largest central organizations are

Congress of the Independent Trade Unions, CITU with 35,025 members,

Conf édération des Travailleurs du Secteur Privé (CTSP) with 26,550 members,

National Trade Union Confederation, NTUC with 40,000 members, mainly civil servants and textile and plantation workers,

Mauritius Labor Congress, MLC with 7,000 members,

Mauritius Trade Union Congress, MTUC with 15,000 members.

They are all affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and OATUU, Organization of African Trade Union Unity.


Trade union rights are statutory, but there are restrictions on the right of public employees to organize. The International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, has stated in a country report that unions are hindered in their work by both laws and illegal methods from employers, especially in the economic free zones. Some control does, however; for example The Ministry of Labor closed a fertilizer factory due to a lack of protective equipment for the workers.

The union activities were long linked to the area around the capital, but with union assistance from Sweden, among others, there are now several projects that will help to get union activities in all provinces, activate more women and young people and conduct union education.

The right to strike is limited by the fact that many jobs are excluded, but strikes and trade union actions often occur. Minimum wages are negotiated annually in a tripartite committee.



After independence in 1975, so-called production councils emerged directly in the workplace. It was these councils that in the early 1980’s took the initiative to form the central organization OTM, Organização dos Trabalhadores de Moçambique (website in Portuguese). In 1990, the OTM declared itself non-partisan. OTM is highly centralized with a large federal office in Maputo, while the resources out in the country are very small. OTM is with its 15 affiliates and 97,305 members connected to world union, Int ernational Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU. In 1998, another central organization was formed -Confederation of Free and Independent Trade Unions of Mozambique – by three unions in the transport, hotel and construction sectors. There are also some independent trade unions, e.g. the teachers’union and the journalists’ union. However, both of these unions have good relations with OTM.