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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya, 9 June 2010, available at: [accessed 23 October 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: 6,400,000
Capital: Tripoli
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The General Trade Union Federation of Workers is an integral part of the political system, and there are no independent unions. Migrant workers, representing an increasing part of the workforce and experiencing harsh working conditions are excluded from unions.

Trade union rights in law

The Constitution does not recognise trade union rights, which are regulated by the 1970 Labour Code. However, there is no real freedom of association, as workers are automatically members of the government-linked General Trade Union Federation of Workers (GTUFW), although they can opt out. Independent trade unions are banned, and union membership is limited to workers of Libyan nationality. Furthermore, Directorate General of Labour or an official from the Directorate can be present at every trade union general meeting.

Collective bargaining is seriously hampered by a provision in the Labour Code that requires the clauses of collective agreements to be in conformity with the national economic interest. The government also has the right to set salaries unilaterally. Section 150 of the Labour Code stipulates that all conciliation and arbitration procedures must be exhausted before a strike can be called. Compulsory arbitration is possible at the request of one of the parties or at the discretion of the public authorities, making it possible to prohibit almost all strikes or end them quickly. The 1975 Trade Unions Act does not sufficiently protect workers against acts of anti-union discrimination.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: In September, Colonel Gaddafi celebrated 40 years in power, while his country's economy grew steadily stronger. Libya also continued its rehabilitation as an accepted member of the international community, but was criticised for its human rights violations. Some of that criticism came from Human Rights Watch, which, following a mission to the country, concluded that "unjustified limits on free expression and association remain the norm".

Role of the national centre: Despite the General Trade Union Federation of Workers' (GTUFW) claims in recent years to be more independent, it is still very much a part of the official Jamahiriya (State of the Masses) system, and as such is under government control. The leadership of the union centre has adopted several amendments to its constitution to bring it more in line with the principles of free and democratic trade unionism, but these changes have to be submitted for "legalisation" to the "Congress of People's Committees". The GTUFW has not reported any changes in the structures of the organisation so far.

Collective bargaining: The government has the right to set salaries unilaterally and even to cut them, as it has done repeatedly in the recent past, for instance with the national airline. So in practice, there is no real collective bargaining at either the national or sectoral level. In the event of a dispute, the union centre approaches the management to find solutions and conclude an individual agreement for the company.

Migrant workers excluded from unions: Libya's business boom has led to increasing reliance from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that over one fifth of the workforce are expatriates. Those from the Maghreb tend to be fairly well treated while migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa often do menial jobs. Egyptian workers also suffered, however. In March, Egypt sought to repatriate 260 of its workers who had not been paid for three months and experienced very bad working conditions. The employer had removed their passports. Migrant workers cannot form their own unions, nor can they hold union office, and the official trade unions appear to be doing nothing to support or organise them.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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