Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November 2014, 15:45 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Laos

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Laos, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88940c.html [accessed 27 November 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: 6,200,000
Capital: Vientiane

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Elections held purely for show have done nothing to change the situation in Laos : a total absence of trade union rights and the repression of any dissent. The single trade union remains closely linked to the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, the only political party with legal recognition.

Background

In a country where no opposition is tolerated, the 30 April legislative elections were purely for show. Voters only had the right to "choose" from a list drawn up in advance by the single party, the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP). The so-called "independent" candidates also had to have the party's approval. The result: of the 132 members of parliament elected, four are not LPRP representatives. Choummaly Sayasone, head of the LPRP, was given a second five year term as President. Thongsing Thammavong retains his post as Prime Minister.

Trade union rights in law

While the Constitution guarantees some freedoms to Lao citizens, there is little room for trade union activities in the law. All unions must belong to the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), which is directly controlled by the ruling party. The law further prohibits union members from organising an "illegal group, gathering, or protest and acts" that are found to damage the union as well as the interest of the state or the collective interest. Those who join an organisation that encourages protests, demonstrations and actions that might cause "turmoil or social instability" face imprisonment of between one and five years. Furthermore, the law meticulously regulates the internal organisation of unions, and stipulates that only Lao nationals can become union members.

While protection against anti-union dismissals is secured, the law does not protect workers against retaliation short of dismissal, e.g. transfers for "disciplinary reasons". In the Labour Law, unions are only acknowledged in the context of identification of workers for redundancy, the possibility to negotiate on wage levels and to assist individual workers in settling disputes. Finally, the dispute resolution system fails to provide any possibility of legal strike action, as all disputes must be settled by negotiation, mediation, arbitration or by the People's Court.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Union and party hand in glove:

Given that the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) are so closely knit, the LFTU effectively enables the party to control the workers. In its official declarations, the LFTU frequently speaks of its collaborative role with the government to ensure enforcement of the labour law so that the rights of both workers' and employers' are protected and as a formulator of future labour laws and regulations. This quasi-official function of the LFTU means it has a dual role as both a controller as well as a potential protector of labour.

Factory level LFTU representatives are usually LPRP members and/or part of the management. There is little evidence that the union is able to effectively protect workers' rights in particular in private sector companies.

Violations

Repression of the freedom to demonstrate and of association:

Four leaders of the "Student movement of 26 October" remain in prison, more than 11 years after organising a peaceful protest in Vientiane in October 1999 for social justice, democratic reform and the respect of human rights. They have already served the ten years in prison to which they were sentenced. They are Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, Sengaloun Phengphanh, Bouavanh Chanmanivong and Keochay (their comrade Khamphouvieng Sisa-At died in prison in 2001 as a result of torture and ill treatment). The authorities promised to release Sengaloun Phengphanh and Bouavanh Chanmanivong in 2012.

Nine other people remain in prison for taking part in 2009 in demonstrations converging on Vientiane to demand justice and respect for their fundamental rights. The nine include two women Kingkoe Phongsely and Somchit and seven men, Soubinh, Souane, Sinpasong, Khamsone, Nou, Somkhit et Sourigna.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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