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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca211e.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 5,800,000
Capital: Tripoli
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

There was no change in Libya, where the law still imposes a single trade union system and collective bargaining is heavily curtailed. The national trade union centre has not shown any real independence from the government.

Trade union rights in law

No freedom of association: There is no freedom of association in Libya. Workers can only belong to the General Trade Union Federation of Workers (GTUFW), which is part of Colonel Gadaffi's Jamahyria system. It is controlled by the government and is administered by the "People's Committees", whose structures it mirrors. GTUFW General Secretaries at each level of the federation have a seat on the People's Committees. Membership of the GTUFW is automatic, although workers do have the right to opt out. Independent trade unions are banned. Candidates for trade union office must be of Libyan nationality.

Collective bargaining – highly restricted: The Labour Code requires that clauses of collective agreements be in conformity with the national economic interest, in violation of the principle of the voluntary negotiation of collective agreements and the autonomy of the bargaining parties.

Right to strike – compulsory arbitration: According to section 150 of the Labour Code the exhaustion of all conciliation and arbitration procedures is the only condition for a lawful strike and section 176 imposes a penalty of imprisonment of one month or a fine against anyone who contravenes this provision. The legal provisions allow for collective disputes to be referred compulsory arbitration at the request of one of the parties or at the discretion of the public authorities, the outcome of which is binding on both parties. As the ILO has noted, this system makes it possible to prohibit virtually all strikes or end them quickly.

Trade union rights in practice

Role of the national centre: The GTUFW has in recent years claimed to be independent of the government, and changed its name, dropping the word "producers" as a means of stressing that it is a workers' union. However its structures have not changed, neither have most of its leaders. Many people in the country regard it with suspicion and do not believe it genuinely defends workers' rights. The national leaders of the GTUFW claim to have opposed the government on some occasions, but on closer inspection, the initiative did not come from the leadership, but from the grass roots, without the support of the national leaders.

The GTUFW does not appear to take an independent stand from the government on such crucial issues as the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting 400 children with the HIV virus despite clear evidence that the children were exposed to the virus before the medics began work at the Benghazi hospital concerned, and against a background of alleged torture. After having their death sentences overturned at the end of 2005 by the Supreme Court, the six were again found guilty at a retrial and in December 2006 were again sentenced to death. The GTUFW did not protest.

Collective bargaining: There is no real collective bargaining in practice, despite GTUFW claims to the contrary. Unions do, in theory, have discussions with management, but with the exception of the newly privatised companies, the unions form part of management. Furthermore, the government has the right to set salaries unilaterally. It can also unilaterally cut salaries, as it has done repeatedly at the national airline.

A new challenge is posed by privatisation and the increasing number of foreign-owned enterprises, as workers' representatives will have to negotiate with employers over whom they have no direct influence.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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