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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Libya, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 20 November 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

There were no improvements in Libya where there is a still a single, government controlled national union centre. Migrant workers, who have no trade union rights, continue to be badly treated. When Nepalese workers went on strike to demand to be paid the full amount they were promised, the construction company where they were employed padlocked them into their residence.


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.


Background: The government continued to clamp down on freedom of expression during the year. In January it blocked access to at least seven independent and opposition Libyan websites based abroad. In February security officers briefly arrested four journalists from the radio station Good Evening Benghazi and, in November, Internal Security officers arrested 20 journalists from the Libya Press agency for three days and suspended the publication of Oea. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was ordered to close down its office and leave the country in June, with no explanation.

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 concludes an individual agreement with the company.

Migrant workers excluded from unions: Libya's business boom has led to increasing reliance from the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. 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 and increasingly Asia often do menial jobs. During the year hundreds of Nepalese and Indian workers had to be repatriated by their governments as they were not being paid at all, while about 200 Bangladeshi workers went on strike for two weeks over non-payment of wages and beatings by management. 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.

Migrants held hostage in pay strike: Nepali workers were held hostage on 21 October after asking for a pay rise. The 67 workers were employed at a real estate and construction company and had been on strike for 18 days when company officials locked them into their residence, padlocking the main gate. They had been paid less than they were promised when they came from Nepal in April. When they went on strike the company asked them to leave, at their own cost. In August 108 Nepali workers, who had not been paid for a year, were held hostage by their employer and had to be rescued by the Nepalese authorities with the help of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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