Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

Constitution and labour law provide for freedom of association and allow workers and employers to join and form unions. This right is regulated by the labour Proclamation.

Trade union is a worker's organization that protects the rights and interests of the workers and represents them in collective bargaining and labour dispute. Union must ensure that laws, regulations, directives and statements are known to, be observed and implemented by members. Union members should participate actively during preparation and amendments of laws and regulations.

Trade unions may draw up their own constitutions that include inter alia the following: name of the organization; address of the head office of the organization; purpose of the organization; date of formation of the organization; emblem of the organization; qualifications for leadership; contribution of  its members; financial and property administration of the organization; meeting and election procedures; disciplinary measures; the conditions for dissolving the organization; and status of the property in case of the dissolution of the organization.

The unions must get registered with the Ministry by filing their statutes; a document containing the names, address, and signatures of its leadership; in the case of a general union, the names of undertakings where members are working; and name and emblem of the organisation. A trade union is considered registered if the Ministry of Labor does not reply within fifteen days after receipt of the registration application.

If a person compels another by intimidation, violence, fraud or any other unlawful means to join a group or association or anyone who prevents another from freely leaving such a group or association, is punishable, upon complaint, with simple imprisonment for not less than three months, or fine.

Source: § 42(1a) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 1995, § 603 of the Criminal Code Proclamation No.414/2004; §113- of the Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003 (amended by Proc. No. 466/2005 & Proc. No. 494/2006)

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Labour Proclamation recognizes right to collective bargaining.

Collective agreement is an agreement concluded in writing between one or more representative of trade unions and one or more employers or agents or representatives of employers organizations. Collective bargaining is a negotiation made between employers and workers organizations or their representatives concerning conditions of work or collective agreement or the renewal and modifications of the collective agreement. A Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) usually provides better benefits to the worker than those provided in the law. If a CBA has provisions which are less favourable than those provided under the law, it cannot be enforced.

A CBA is legally effective from the date of signature and  is valid for at least 3 years, unless otherwise specified in the agreement. It is applicable to all the parties covered by it. The CBA is valid between the employer and the workers even if a trade union which is a party to a collective agreement is dissolved.

The parties must send sufficient copies of collective agreement to the concerned Ministry for registration. Signed and registered agreement may be acceded to by others.

Source: § 124-135 of the Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003 (amended by Proc. No. 466/2005 & Proc. No. 494/2006)

Right to Strike

Right to strike is provided under the constitution and is regulated under the Labour Proclamation. However, unreasonable restrictions on the  right to strike (long list of essential services, excessive penal or civil sanctions against those engaged in unauthorized strikes and lengthy procedures) actually frustrate this right.

Peaceful strike is allowed to protect their interests only after all the efforts of dispute resolution fail. Compulsory recourse to long and complex conciliation and mediation procedures prior to strike actions generally restrict the right to strike. There is a compulsory 30-day mediation period before lawful strike action may be taken.

Majority workers must support the strike in a meeting in which at least two-third (2/3) members of the trade union were present. Strikers must notify the other concerned party and the representative of the Ministry in the region or the concerned government office  at least 10 days prior to the proposed date of strike and indicate the reasons for taking this action.

Strike is considered illegal if it is not peaceful and does not comply with the provisions of labour law. Violence, threats of physical force or with any act which is clearly and officially unlawful are strictly prohibited. Measure should be taken to ensure observance, of employers and workers, of safety regulations and accident prevention procedures in the undertaking.

Source: §42(1b) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 1994; §157-160 of the Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003 (amended by Proc. No. 466/2005 & Proc. No. 494/2006)

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • Labour Proclamation No.377/2003 / የአሰሪና ሰራተኛ ዓዋጅ ቁ. 377/2003