Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 09:05 GMT

2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lebanon

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lebanon, 20 November 2008, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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: 4,100,000
Capital: Beirut
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Political tensions in the country make it difficult to carry on trade union activity, independently of political manipulation. Many migrant workers, particularly domestic servants, and Palestinian workers lack trade union rights and are poorly treated.

Trade union rights in law

The law recognises the right of workers, except government employees, to set up and belong to trade unions and federations. However, domestic workers, day workers and temporary workers in the public services, and some categories of agricultural workers are not covered by the country's labour code.

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.

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.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The country is still recovering from the war and political tensions that make it difficult to carry on independent trade union activity. In January the Lebanese Confederation of Trade Unions (CGTL) called a general strike to protest at the government's proposed economic reform programme, the price hike in oil and electricity, and increases in taxes and VAT.

This was then taken up by the Hezbollah-led opposition as a means to topple Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. In April Ghassan Ghosn, CGLT president, and Adnane Kassar, president of the Business Federation, jointly called for a truce to stop the political fighting.

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 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 many are suffering from a lack of legal protection. Some of them are working in conditions close to slavery.

There are an estimated 100,000 female domestic workers who are particularly badly treated, so the government has announced plans to draw up a standard contract for them.

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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