Teachers’ strike in Benin

The ITUC has firmly condemned the government’s handling of the strike underway in the country. The authorities are deregistering striking teachers, gagging freedom of speech and arresting trade unionists.

Since 20 March, Benin has seen two teachers arrested for violating the ban on meetings in the workplace and 14 others manhandled and arrested at their director’s request for taking part in a sit-down strike.

Two trade union representatives, Jules Amoussouga and Cécil Ayadokoun, were also arrested for holding discussions with their colleagues regarding the continuation of the strike action. Although the teachers were subsequently released, these arrests are illustrative of the climate of repression in Benin.

On 14 March, the Council of Ministers decided on a range of measures including the deregistering of all teachers taking action or in any way involved in the strike. The government has, moreover, started to hire military conscripts to replace striking workers. "This situation is intolerable," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. "Such actions are in breach of workers’ fundamental rights."

The expulsion of striking workers from the public sector, their replacement with other workers and the prohibition of strike action constitute serious violations of Convention 87 (on freedom of association), Convention 98 (on collective bargaining), and of Benin’s constitution, which guarantees the right to strike.

In a letter to the Beninese authorities, the ITUC urged President Boni Yayi to take every action necessary to bring an end to the harassment, intimidation and arrests and to ensure that the right to strike can be exercised under normal and respectful conditions.