Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Yemen, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cabe2.html [accessed 20 September 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

A single trade union system is in place, and labour rights remain restricted. The government still promises to improve the labour law to give more union freedom, but without results. Six union members were arrested for leading a dock strike but were released after six days.

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, although on 17 March Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansor-Hadi said that the law would be changed to provide more freedom for unions and to improve workers' conditions.

Freedom of association – Single trade union system: The law recognises the right to organise, but all unions must belong to the General Federation of Worker's Trade Unions of Yemen (GFWTUY), the country's 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.

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. There is no minimum membership for unions, and workers may associate by profession or trade.

Some trade unions do exist outside the GFWTUY structures, and 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.

Right to collective bargaining – 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.

Right to strike – Strict conditions: The law recognises the right to strike but 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% of all workers concerned, of whom 25% 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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The country has been governed by Ali Abdallah Saleh and the General People's Congress since 1990. However, there have recently been calls for electoral reform, and the government has violently put down opposition rallies demanding free and fair elections. Yemen has become increasingly caught up in tensions in the Middle East, with actions by Islamic militants unsettling the country.

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.

Harbour workers arrested for striking: Six committee members of the Aden Container Terminal (ACT) Union were arrested on 9 November. They were leading a strike of 500 workers protesting at an agreement signed between the government and the Dubai Ports International Company (DPI) to operate the ACT. They feared this could result in their being fired or their rights rescinded. The DPI threatened to replace them with Thai or Dijibouti workers. The six committee members were released on 17 November.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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