Western Africa Trade Unions

by | August 19, 2020


According to Countryaah.com, Ghana  is a country located in Western Africa. Even when Ghana became the first colony south of the Sahara to gain independence in 1957, there was a strong trade union organization. The union has continued to play an important role in society and the movement was united for a long time and the degree of organization was high. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the union played an active role in Ghanaian democratization. A neoliberal labor market law from 2004 makes legal strikes more difficult and the freedom of anyone to form a trade union poses a threat to unity. The unions have long demanded a revision of the labor market laws. The government, which has long refused to discuss the issue, has softened its negative attitude and in 2019 a discussion began with the union about a change. Various union actions, including strikes, are common.

Even in Ghana, however, the union climate has generally hardened in recent years and union actions have been met with violence from the police on several occasions. It also happens that employees are prevented from organizing in a union, e.g. the oil workers.



Most trade unions are gathered in the GTUC, Ghana Trade Union Congress. For a long time, the GTUC was closely allied with political power, but today is often in opposition to the government. The GNAT Ghana National Association of Teachers, the country’s largest union with 178,000 members, is outside the central organization for historical reasons.

In 2004, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, the largest union, left TUC and formed a new central organization, the Ghana Federation of Labor. Both the Ghana TUC with 275,000 members in 18 member unions and the GFL with 51,220 members in 2019 are affiliated to the World Trade Union,Int ernational Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and to the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU.

TUC Secretary General Kwasi Adu-Amankwah has been the Secretary General of the ITUC Regional Organization for Africa since 2012. OATUU is headquartered in Accra.


Guinea is one of 16 countries in West Africa. After independence, the trade union movement became associated with the government. The union has traditionally had a very strong position in the country. The Labor Market Act also guarantees the right to strike, but not in all areas. A major difficulty in the negotiation work is the lack of functioning employer organizations in the private sector.

In recent years, several groups have gone on strike, including teachers, miners and bank officials.

After the unions acted vigorously and also received support from the international trade union movement, Guinea has ratified the ILO conventions concerning safety and working environment in the construction and mining industry (conventions 167 and 176, respectively) and convention 189 on the rights of domestic workers.



In the early 1990’s, internal criticism of the leadership grew within the only permitted central organization, the CNTG, which was accused of corruption. A number of new unions were formed and the trade union movement is now strongly divided. Three central organizations are affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation – ITUC:
– Confédération Nationale des Travailleurs de Guinée, CNTG (Facebook in French) with 100,500 members, mainly in the public sector
– Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Guinée, USTG with 41,000 members, mainly in the private sector
– Organization Nationale des Syndicats Libres de Guinée, ONSLG with 23,750 members.


The right to strike is guaranteed in the constitution and strikes are common, often due to unpaid wages. Although the country has ratified the ILO’s conventions against child labor, it is very extensive, mostly in agriculture and in street sales. The union’s situation is difficult and trade union rights are often violated.

Before independence, the União National dos Trabalhadores de Guiné Bissau, UNTGB, worked from the Senegalese exile and collaborated with a liberation movement in opposition to those who eventually gained power and the union ended up in a politically vulnerable position. Some of the union leaders who returned to the country disappeared under unexplained circumstances. Others were ousted following political pressure from the new government.



There is only one central trade union organization in the country, the União National dos Trabalhadores de Guiné Bissau, UNTGB. Step by step, the UNTGB has changed its political appearance and the relationship with the government has gradually improved. In recent years, however, the union leadership has emphasized its independence. UNTGB, which is affiliated to the ITUC, has 50,000 members. 15 of a total of 21 unions are affiliated. In Portugal, there is also a trade union in exile that wants support for returning home to Guinea-Bissau.


The Farmers’ Union is the best organized and most active union. Collective agreements exist for certain groups, including Firestone – the world’s largest rubber plantation and the mining company ArcelorMittal. Employees in state-owned companies are not entitled to collective agreements, but pressure from Public Services International – PSI: has softened the government’s opposition and a change may come. Child labor is common.

Strikes occur. In recent years, there have been several actions against large companies, which has resulted in improved collective agreements. Extensive union protests are also being carried out against plans to privatize large parts of the education sector.

A very large proportion of the population works mainly in the informal sector.



In 2008, the two central organizations, the Congress of National Trade Unions of Liberia, CONATUL and the Liberian Federation of Labor Unions, LFLU, merged to form Liberia Labor Congress, LLC. The organization has 42,000 members and has been a member of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, since 2009.


Both the right to organize and the right to strike are constitutionally protected. There are laws that regulate the labor market, but the application is neglected. Negotiations between trade unions and private employers take place mainly directly in the workplace, but the government and the central organization also conduct regular negotiations. However, the climate of negotiations has become harsher and violations of trade union rights are common. Strikes occur relatively often.



Until 1998, the Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Mali, UNTM was the only central trade union organization. UNTM with 130,000 members in 14 unions has played and continues to play a crucial role in the country’s democratization and development.

Conféderation Syndicale des Travailleurs du Mal i, CSTM, (French) has most of its 16,000 members in 15 unions in the private labor market and has cooperation agreements with several of the independent unions, including the large teachers’ union.

Both organizations are affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC and the Organization of African Trade Union Unity, OATUU. They also work closely with each other.