|04DJIBOUTI530||2004-04-12 12:44:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) In a meeting with President Guelleh April 11
on an administrative matter, Ambassador mentioned that
in January 2004, President Bush declared Djibouti
eligible under the African Growth and Opportunity Act
(AGOA), but concerns about the treatment of labor
unions could still endanger that status. She
respectfully asked for President Guelleh's intervention
in this matter, noting that it had already been raised
with Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Badri Ali Bogoreh. Ambassador passed a copy
of talking points from Reftel A (in English) to
2. (C) Guelleh responded that the right to have labor
unions was based on constitutional law. He emphasized
that the Government of Djibouti is willing and obliged
to invest in the rights of workers to form unions.
This commitment is based on a French colonial decree
in 1952, which requires the government to intervene in
all aspects of labor practices. Between 1995 and 1997,
attempts to reform the labor code were made on the
recommendation of the World Bank. Prior to the changes
in the labor code, the Ministry of Labor intervened on
issues of hiring, working conditions, dismissal and
minimum wage. The World Bank recommendations
pushed for Djibouti to allow free market conditions to
regulate the minimum wage and labor force.
3. (C) Ambassador repeated that respect for labor
practices are a very important condition for AGOA.
Guelleh responded that the problem with the labor
unions does not lie with the government but within
the trade unions themselves. The 1952 law should be
abolished as well as the minimum wage and the Service
de Main d'Ouevre (government labor service). The
Government of Djibouti should not have an official
workforce to supply labor demand but the market should
determine the allocation. He commented that the labor
unions have held elections, but each time the union
organizes, it splits. The labor unions also have money
problems, of which the International Labor Organization
and International Labor Organization of Africans are
aware. Guelleh commented that for the leaders of the
trade unions, it becomes a way to profit personally and
once elected the leaders do not want to give up their
positions because of the benefits they receive.
4. (C) Guelleh emphasized that the labor unions are
supposed to defend the rights of the worker and nothing
else. He commented that the Government of Djibouti's
role is to "protect the workers from abuse and we assume
it." He continued to say that the government does not
want to intervene in inter-trade union issues and should
focus on protecting workers' rights according to labor
laws and the Law of Association, written in 1901. The
Government of Djibouti, he said, sees a conflict of
interest when a person is Secretary General of the Labor
Union and holds a key position in a political party.
The goal of the government is to address issues of social
protection, work accidents, and appeals to the labor court.
Guelleh remarked that the Republic of Djibouti understands
its role and has compensated parties for its infractions
of labor regulations.
5. (C) Comment: The issue of labor rights remains a
delicate one for the Government, and an economic one.
Embassy hopes that continued sensitization at the
highest levels of the Djiboutian Government will bring
about meaningful change. End Comment.