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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lebanon

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 - Lebanon, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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: 3,800,000
Capital: Beirut
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The war and political tensions destroyed any hope of improving trade union rights either in practice or through implementing reforms to the Labour Code.

Trade union rights in law

The law recognises the right of workers to form trade unions and federations.

Broad powers of interference: The law confers broad powers on the Ministry of Labour, whose authorisation is required prior to the setting up of a trade union of any kind. Moreover, the Ministry controls all trade union elections, including the date of the election, the procedure to be followed and the ratification of the results.

The law also permits the administrative dissolution of trade unions and forbids them to engage in any political activity.

Freedom of association denied to some: 150,000 government employees are forbidden to set up or belong to trade unions. Furthermore, the Labour Code does not apply to domestic workers, day workers and temporary workers in the public services, or to some categories of agricultural workers.

High hurdles for collective bargaining: Collective bargaining is recognised in law. However, a minimum of 60 per cent of workers must agree before a union can engage in collective bargaining, and collective agreements must be ratified by two thirds of union members at a general assembly. A draft amendment to the Labour Code reduces the threshold to 51 per cent, and gives government employees the right to bargain collectively. However, it had not become law by the end of the year.

Restrictions on the right to strike: The right to strike is limited and the law does not adequately protect workers against anti-union discrimination, although fines for infringing labour legislation are relatively high. A draft amendment to the Labour Code prohibits any discrimination on the grounds of trade union membership, but this had still not become law by the end of the year.

The freedom of trade unions to organise demonstrations is limited by the obligation to establish the number of participants in advance and the requirement that five per cent of the union's members be assigned to maintain order. The organisers must sign a document whereby they assume full responsibility for all damages occurring during the demonstration.

A positive initiative on recognising the rights of domestic workers: The Ministry of Labour issued a decree that established a high-level national steering committee to amend the local labour law to take better account of the rights of domestic workers. That committee is meant to be drawing up a standard contract for such workers and preparing a two-year action programme.

Trade union rights in practice

In recent years all sorts of political groups have been trying to manipulate the trade union movement by creating divisions amongst workers and activists. There are currently 13 different confederations, but many are totally unrepresentative.

Government interference: The government has often interfered in trade union affairs, instigating or aggravating conflicts within the trade union movement. Senior politicians have managed to have their nominees placed on the governing body of the Confédération Générale des Travailleurs du Liban (CGTL), causing friction within the union when it opposes government policy.

Migrant workers: As in other countries in the Middle East, there are many migrant workers and some are suffering from a lack of legal protection. Some of them are working in conditions close to slavery.

Palestinians denied many rights: There are approximately 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who make up eleven per cent of the population. They are not allowed to form trade unions as there has to be a reciprocal arrangement with their home state. Palestinians in Lebanon are considered to be stateless people. They are also excluded from many professions reserved for Lebanese nationals, although there have been recent improvements, with more professions opening up to Palestinians.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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