Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Libya

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Libya, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 16 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: 6,355,000
Capital: Tripoli

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Trade union rights have not been respected in Libya for the duration of Gaddafi's rule, with the growing number of migrant workers suffering the most from the lack of protection. The country is now in a state of transition with much work to be done before it can build a strong, effective independent workers' movement.


Colonel Gaddafi's 42-year autocratic rule came to an end in August when rebels stormed Tripoli after a six-month uprising and civil war. Hundreds died, thousands were injured, and many were arrested, tortured and disappeared during the government's violent repression of the anti-authoritarian protests. Colonel Gaddafi, who had gone into hiding, was captured and killed in October. The National Transitional Council that emerged from the rebellion has promised to turn Libya into a pluralist democratic state.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Freedom of association needs to be restored: There is no tradition of trade union organising in Libya after 42 years of autocratic rule during which there was no tolerance of any independent trade union activity. The single national centre, the General Trade Union Federation of Workers' (GTUFW) was under government control, despite claims of greater independence in recent years. Privatisation and the increasing number of foreign-owned companies led in recent years to some instances of workers trying to take collective action outside the official structures, although with little effect. Since the uprising some public sector workers have also begun to press for their rights. Healthcare workers and media professionals began protesting in November in Benghazi, calling for an end to administrative corruption and better working conditions. Employees of the naval base also protested, over unpaid salaries and a shortage of supplies. Much needs to be done to channel such protest movements into the building of a strong independent workers' movement.

Collective bargaining and collective action: Similarly there is no tradition of real collective bargaining as under Gaddafi the government had the right to set salaries individually.

Migrant workers: Libya became increasingly reliant on workers from the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. It was estimated that before the uprising over one fifth of the workforce were expatriates. Migrant workers could not form their own unions, or hold union office and the official unions did little to protect them. Sub-Saharan migrants, who made up the majority of the country's 1.2 million foreign workers, were heavily discriminated against as they were considered to be the "underclass." When the revolution broke out sub-Saharan migrants were robbed and harassed by the armed police and militia forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi while at the same time, they were physically attacked by the rebels who believed them to be African mercenaries hired by Gaddafi. Over 200,000 migrant workers from the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, and Egypt fled the country when the fighting began.


No entry for this country for this year

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