Last Updated: Friday, 17 October 2014, 15:58 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca622d.html [accessed 20 October 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: 22,400,000
Capital: Sana'a
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Although unions have the right to strike, the government sacks or demotes public sector workers if they go on strike. All unions must belong to a single trade union confederation. A new labour law will bring some improvements but will still limit collective bargaining and the right to strike.

Trade union rights in law

Labour law: The 2002 labour law is consistent with some of the provisions of ILO fundamental standards but still contains several restrictions on trade union rights. The new Labour Law, still in draft form, contains several significant changes, notably that foreign workers may join trade unions but will still not have the right to be elected to trade union office. However, the proposed Labour Code had still not passed into law by the year's end.

Restrictions on union membership and election of officers: Some restrictions remain in the draft, such as the exclusion of domestic workers and civil servants from joining unions. In addition, minors aged between 16 and 18 can only join a trade union if their tutor agrees. Trade unions must be officially registered and there is still a ban on trade unions affiliating with international trade unions. There is no minimum membership for unions, and workers may associate by profession or trade.

Single trade union system: The law recognises the right to organise, but all unions must belong to the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions of Yemen (GFWTUY), which is the only umbrella union organisation. The GFWTUY claims that it is not associated with the government, but it works closely with it to resolve labour disputes.

Some trade unions do exist outside the GFWTUY structures, but only the GFWTUY general assembly has the responsibility to dissolve unions. That monopoly might be challenged when the law removes all specific references to the GFWTUY.

Strict conditions on the right to strike: The law recognises the right to strike but imposes strict conditions. Strikes may only be called after the completion of dispute settlement procedures. Disputes may be referred to compulsory arbitration at the request of only one of the parties, in which case a strike can be suspended for 85 days. The proposal to strike must be put to at least 60 per cent of all workers concerned, of whom 25 per cent must vote in favour. The strike call must concern more than two thirds of the workforce of the employer. Permission to strike must be obtained from the GFWTUY, and three weeks' notice must be given.

Strikes are banned in some sectors, such as ports, airlines and hospitals, and may not be carried out for "political purposes".

No protection from anti-union discrimination in the draft law: The draft law does not contain any provisions or sanctions to protect workers from bosses' anti-union discrimination or protect unions from employers' interference.

Collective agreements can be vetoed: Workers are allowed to bargain collectively, but the Ministry of Labour has the power of veto over any collective bargaining agreement. Agreements that are "likely to cause a breach of security or to damage the economic interests of the country" can be annulled. The ILO has requested the government amend the draft code so that the government may only refuse to register a collective agreement if it contains a procedural flaw or does not conform to minimum standards laid down by the labour legislation.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Strike action does take place, without reprisals, and has been successful in getting workers' demands met.

Employer resistance to organising and bargaining: Many private sector employers do not allow their workers to organise, while in both the public and private sector, and often do not allow trade unions to negotiate collective agreements.

Unorganised workers lack legal protection: Most construction workers and those in trades such as painting ceramics and shipment services who work in the capital, Sana'a, are employed on a daily basis without a written contract or legal protection. They are frequently cheated by employers and have no recompense in case of accidents.

Striking teachers threatened with transfer or demotion: Throughout the year the Yemen Teachers Union staged a number of demonstrations, strikes and sit-ins demanding that the government stick to the 2005 law to give them higher salaries and allowances. While no penal action was taken against participants, some teachers were threatened with salary deductions, demotion or transfer to remote schools.

Airline engineers booted out for trying to negotiate better wage deals: Sixteen airline engineers – all members of the Yemenia Engineers Association – were sacked in May amid deteriorating industrial relations as they were trying to negotiate a wage increase.

This followed the sacking in December 2006 of three officials: Mohammed Omar Mo'mean, Abdullah Ahmad Qurwash and Jamal Ali Musaud from the YEA, all of whom had been trying to negotiate with the management.

Following international pressure, all nineteen union members were reinstated on 24 May, and the management agreed to a salary increase.

Police arrest demonstrators asking for better benefits for retired workers: On 3 August police arrested dozens of people protesting in Aden for better benefits for retired workers. Police blocked roads to a public square to prevent protesters staging a sit-in. The Ministry of the Interior said the demonstration was unlicensed.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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