REGISTRATION OF TRADE UNIONS AND EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION IN CAMEROON;
The legal existence of a trade union is traced to the date of the union’s registration as per section 6 of the labor code in Cameroon. Under local laws, a trade union is similar to a company since both acquire juristic personalities from the day the certificate of registration has been issued.
Section 6 of the labor code in Cameroon makes it important for officials and members of trade unions and employers associations to insist on issuing a certificate of registration by the registrar of trade unions before the union commences its operation.
This caution is prudent because section 69(2) of the labor code warns of the possibility of prosecuting any person in a proposed trade union or employers association that has not been registered who acts as if the union or association has been registered.
This criminalization of pre-registration activities by promoters of trade unions and employers’ associations is strange. It is also quite clearly contrary to the provision of Art 5 of ILO convention 87, which gives workers and employers the freedom to establish and join a union of their choice.
Although section 2 of the labor code sets out the general procedure for registering trade unions, section 8 prescribes the detailed formality for registering trade unions and employers’ associations in Cameroon.
Under section 8, the application for the registration of a trade union and employers association must be signed by at least 20 members if it’s a workers union and by five members if it is an association of employers.
In practice, the officers of the proposed union would normally convene a meeting where the union rules are written and adopted and the officers elected. The proper registration begins with an application to the trade and employers association registrar.
This officer is a civil servant appointed by decree and operates in the ministry of labor and social insurance in Yaoundé.
The application must be accompanied by two copies of the rules of the union and a list of the officers of the proposed union.
On depositing the application, the registrar issues a written receipt of acknowledgment of the application.
The registrar has one month to examine the file and determine whether the union or employers association is to be registered.
By the warped Cameroonian practice, the receipt of acknowledgment is not regarded as evidence that the union has been registered and hence cannot be considered as authority for the union or employers association to start operation. Thus, the court of appeal held in SYNES V Dr. Dorothy Njeuma that the production of a receipt indicating that the union made an application was not evidence of registration.
Where the registrar declines to register a union or an employers association, he is in such a situation, oblige, according to sections 12 (1) and 12(2) of the labor code, to notify the applicants in writing of the refusal and his reasons for doing so.
The applicant can, as of right, challenge the registrar’s refusal to register the union or employers association in court. Such a challenge could be brought under section 14 of the labor code by persons feeling aggrieved by the decision of the registrar to refuse registration.
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