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 for the defense and the promotion of legitimate professional interests.

The right to form and join a union is regulated by the labour code. Trade union is an association of workers executing similar or related professions with the exclusive purpose of studying and defending their economic and social interests. Trade unions are independent, that is, they are not established or run by the employer or do not receive budget support from the Government. The trade unions are not involved in political activities.

Union members are free to elect their representatives and formulate their work program. They may draw up their own statutes, administrative regulations, organize their management and their activity and design their plan of action as long as these are not contrary to laws in effect and public order.

The unions must get registered with the Ministry by filing their statutes. The statutes must be written in three official languages and signed by a public notary of the District in which a Trade Union or an Employers' Professional Organisation has its head office. Ministry in charge of labour responds to these statutes within 90 days of their reception and provides written observation, if necessary, to the representatives of the trade union. If the Ministry of Labor does not reply within this period, the interested parties may address their concerns to the relevant authorities. The publication of Statutes of a Trade Union in the Official Gazette grants it legal personality.

Employer may deduct union dues from the wages of the members only after their written consent. Discriminatory behavior is prohibited for the employer on the basis of union affiliation or participation in union activities. Employer is not allowed to use any means of pressure for or against any trade union organization.

Sources: Articles 31 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015; Articles101-118 of the Law regulating Labour in Rwanda 2009 (aka Labour Code), Ministerial Order N° 11 Of 07/09/2010 Determining The Modalities And Requirements For The Registration Of Trade Unions Or Employers’ Professional Organizations

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

Right to collective bargaining is recognized by the labour code. Public servants are not allowed to bargain collectively.

According to the Constitution, trade unions and employers' associations have the right to enter into general or specific agreements regulating their working relations. The modalities for making these agreements are determined by the Law.

In accordance with the Labour Code, collective negotiation (collective bargaining) is a discussion between one or several employers and representatives of one or several registered trade unions that can take place at national level or at the levels of categories of similar professions or service firms.

A collective agreement may contain provisions that are more favourable for workers than those provided by the laws. Worker and employer may not agree on provisions that are contrary or less favourable than those of laws and regulations in force.

A collective agreement may be signed for a specified or unspecified period of time. In case where there are no contrary provisions, the convention for a specified period that expires remains effective as if it is a convention for unspecified period.

The collective labour convention (collective agreement) is deposited with the clerk of the court competent in labour related matters for registration. The convention is submitted with 5 original copies by one of the parties, immediately furnished with acknowledgement of receipt. These provisions are applicable to any worker and employer within the concerned area and profession, in accordance with the period and procedure stipulated in the convention.

The National Labour Council is a tripartite committee that consists of fifteen members with five representatives each from government, workers and employers. The Council comments and gives its advice on labour law, minimum wage and other labour related matters. Committees established by the council are to act as arbitrators and settle collective labour disputes, when the parties cannot reach a settlement.

Sources: Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda 2003 revised in 2015; Articles119-132 of the Law regulating Labour in Rwanda 2009 (aka Labour Code)

Right to Strike

Strike is interruption of work or late arrival for work by some or all workers with a purpose to oblige the employer or any other organization, to which the employer is affiliated to accept, modify or abandon a certain decision.

Right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution and regulated by the Labour Code. According to the Constitution, all workers have right to strike and it should be exercised within the limits provided for by the Law, but the exercising of this right should not interfere with the freedom to work which is guaranteed for every individual.

Peaceful strike is allowed only after all the methods of dispute resolution (negotiation, conciliation and arbitration) fail. Strikers must inform the employer and the Ministry of Labour at least 4 days prior to the proposed date of strike.

Competent court decides whether the strike is legal or illegal. Illegal strike may results in legal action against workers, trade union and all others directly or indirectly involved in it. Strikers have to pay compensation for the damages deliberately caused to goods and equipments.

Workers employed in essential services have to follow particular procedures to exercise their right to strike. These procedures permit the maintenance of the necessary minimum service for the security of people and their goods. Essential services are those meant to safeguard peoples' basic rights and freedoms such as the right to life, health, freedom and security, freedom of movement and freedom of communication and information. Strike or lockout cannot interrupt or stop the following essential services: services and works done by aid agencies; firefighting services; hospitals; water distribution and other related services; electricity distribution or works on water dams; public transportation of people on land, water and air; activities linked to supplying, distributions and selling of fuel and oil and activities carried out at airports and air traffic control.

An excessively long list of indispensable/essential services is provided under Ministerial Order Nº04 Of 13/07/2010 Determining Essential Services That Should Not Stop And The Terms And Conditions Of Exercising The Right To Strike In These Services.

Sources: Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015, Articles151-155 of the Law regulating Labour in Rwanda 2009 (aka Labour Code); Ministerial Order Nº04 of 13/07/2010 Determining Essential Services That Should Not Stop and The Terms and Conditions of Exercising The Right To Strike In These Services

Regulations on Trade Unions

  • Law regulating Labour in Rwanda, 2009 (Labour Code) / Itegeko rigenga umurimo mu Rwanda, 2009
  • Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, 2003 / Itegeko nshinga rya Repubulika y'u Rwanda, 2003
  • Ministerial Order Nº04 of 13/07/2010 Determining Essential Services that should not stop and the Terms and Conditions of exercising the right to strike in these services / Iteka rya Minisitiri Nº06 ryo kuwa 13/07/2010 rishyiraho urutonde n'imiterere y'imirimo mibi ku bana, ibyiciro by'ibigo bibujijwe kubakoresha hamwe n'ingamba zo kubirwanya
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